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Organized Retail Crime Monthly News Recap: September 2023

Organized retail crime remains a serious problem for retailers across the country and around the world. Every day there are countless stories about criminal enterprises victimizing our stores, threatening the safety of our customers and employees and, in many cases, the very fabric of the retail industry. To give you a better feel for the vast impact of the problems, we have provided a glimpse into just a few of the incidents that took place in the month of September. Keep in mind that the list of incidents had to be drastically reduced here simply due to the sheer number of serious criminal incidents that took place this month.

Largest-Ever Investment to Combat ORC Made in California
Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California is poised to make the largest-ever single investment to combat ORC, totaling more than $267 million. The funding provides an opportunity to hire more police, make more arrests, and secure more felony charges against suspects.

Texas Makes Appointments to Statewide ORC Task Force
Ten appointments have been made to the recently created statewide Texas Organized Retail Theft Task Force, which will study the impact of organized retail crime in this state and provide recommendations to address this problem. The task force will meet quarterly and publish a report for the Texas Legislature by December 2024.

- Digital Partner -

Target Closing 9 Stores Citing Retail Theft and Violence
Target announced that it is closing nine stores across four states, effective Oct. 21. The company said it cannot continue operating these stores because theft and ORC are threatening the safety of its employees and guests. Closing are one store in New York City, two in Seattle, three in San Francisco and Oakland, and three in Portland.

Pastor Allegedly Ran Theft Ring That Stole $1.4M
A pastor who founded a halfway house is accused of abusing his authority and organizing a crime ring that stole at least $1.4 million from Home Depot, Florida officials say. The pastor, Robert Dell “…demanded the crimes under threat of abuse and used the positions of being a pastor and founder of a halfway house to manipulate other vulnerable people to participate in the criminal scheme,” according to the release.

7 Arrested for More Than $100K in Retail Thefts from Businesses Across Bay Area
Three suspects were arrested in connection to a series of organized retail thefts of businesses across the Bay Area, totaling more than $100k. In a separate incident, SFPD arrested an additional four suspects in the same week from an unrelated robbery. Three of those suspects are minors, and over $5,000 worth of stolen merchandise was recovered.

Retail Store Robbed 1,000 Times this Year
ORC is not exclusive to the US. A Liverpool store logs of all the shoplifting and abuse incidents the staff has faced. In 2023 alone, there have been 1,000 separate incidents. Earlier this week, one of the employees was threatened with having his jaw broken, and another—a female student working part-time—was told she’d be ‘jumped’ the moment she left the shop.

Brothers Arrested for Operating Organized Retail Theft Ring in Pennsylvania
Two Philadelphia men now stand charged with more than 200 felony counts, stemming from an organized retail theft operation targeting Home Depot and Lowe’s stores. Investigators say the brothers coordinated the purchase of merchandise online, then returned the product with a new, higher-priced UPC code, pocketing the difference. According to police, numerous other products were purchased and otherwise altered before being returned. The scheme allegedly netted the pair more than $200,000.

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Nearly 14,000 Items Stolen from Victoria’s Secret, CVS Recovered in LA Retail Theft Investigation
Two people were arrested in an organized retail theft operation that was selling stolen merchandise behind a makeshift storefront display in downtown Los Angeles, according to authorities. The retail theft fencing operation involved nearly $200,000 in merchandise stolen from Los Angeles-area CVS and Victoria’s Secret stores, the California Highway Patrol said. Nearly 14,000 stolen items were recovered. The investigation was conducted by the CHP’s Southern Division Organized Retail Crime Task Force and the Los Angeles Police Department’s newly created Los Angeles Organized Retail Crime Task Force.

Texas Forms Task Force to Combat ORC
With Texas retailers’ concern for organized retail theft activity increasing, the Texas Comptroller has organized a task force of 10 members to analyze and manage the growing issue. The task force consists of a combination of representatives from retailers along with several law enforcement and state agencies. They will meet quarterly to make legislative suggestions to prevent organized retail theft, manage the crime’s long-term economic impact, and improve consumer protections based on their research of the impact of organized retail crime in Texas.

Man Convicted of $7M International Gift Card Scheme
A federal jury convicted a Chinese national living in DC on charges of conspiracy, fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. According to court records, Qinbin Chen was the leader of an international money laundering scheme. Chen would manipulate mostly elderly residents into buying Walmart gift cards. He would tell them various lies such as their social security numbers had been compromised, or their bank account had been hacked. The victims would send the gift cards to Chen, and he would disappear with their money and information, managing to launder about $7 million total.

Thieves Steal $200K Worth of Nike Merchandise
Suspects broke into a tractor-trailer at the Nike Employee store in Raleigh, Tennessee and got away with approximately $200,000 in merchandise, Memphis Police say. When officers arrived, they saw four sedans and one pickup truck fleeing the business with their lights off. The back gate to the Nike store was open, and the chain had been cut. Police found boxes thrown around the parking lot and a tractor-trailer with its back door open.

- Digital Partner -

Officers Seize Over $250,000 Worth of Counterfeit Items in Greenville, SC
Two people were recently charged after counterfeit items and drugs were seized from an apartment in Greenville. Officers said they investigated with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Office of the Secretary of the State and discovered the suspects were allegedly selling counterfeit items. According to officers, they eventually searched the suspect’s apartment and found counterfeit items worth around $286,250. Officers also seized 56.2 grams of methamphetamine, 2.4 grams of fentanyl, 141 ecstasy pills, and 4.4 grams of psilocybin mushrooms during the search.

ORC Team Steals $1M+ in Jewelry from Stores in 4 States
Federal prosecutors say they have charged 16 members of a violent crime ring responsible for armed car jackings, robberies, and jewelry store thefts in Virginia, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Members of the alleged crime ring are accused of conspiring to target jewelry stores owned by Asian Americans.

$218K in Stolen Retail Merchandise Found in Backyard of LA Home
Authorities with the California Highway Patrol’s Organized Retail Theft Task Force have recovered more than $218,000 worth of stolen merchandise and arrested 10 suspects in connection with a retail theft fencing operation. Investigators located the operation, which was being run out of the backyard of a private residence where the stolen merchandise was kept under tents and inside a box truck. The fencing operation was allegedly selling stolen retail merchandise at swap meets in the Los Angeles area.

3 Suspects Stole Over $2.5 Million in Target Gift Cards
Three suspects were found guilty of laundering over $2.5 million in Target gift cards. The scheme involved overseas scammers calling victims and persuading them to buy one or more Target gift cards to rectify nonexistent issues. Some victims received calls from the suspects posing as law enforcement officers claiming the victims’ identities had been stolen or warrants were issued for their arrest. Others were sent fake tech support emails claiming issues with the victims’ financial accounts. To resolve these problems, they were asked to send payment in the form of Target gift cards.

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