WANTED suspects as part of an organized shoplifting crime ring targeting Wal-Marts in Florida and Georgia
Photos/Info Courtesy: Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Donna Wood
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Tarpon Springs Police, Statewide Prosecutor and multiple law enforcement agencies in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina are investigating an organized crime ring of shoplifters hitting Wal-Mart stores. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says several arrests of one or more members of the gang have been made since the grand thefts and shoplifting were reported in October 2014. The State Prosecutor filed charges of racketeering, conspiracy to engage in racketeering, grand theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft.
The PCSO says the thieves travel in small groups and strike during the early morning, overnight hours at Wal-Mart. They steal electronics and other higher-priced merchandise with 2 methods — “Push-Out” (taking the items and concealing the stolen goods in a purse, bag, tote or on their person without paying) and “Box Stuff” (taking the electronics or high-priced items, removing or disrupting the theft alarms, stuffing the stolen items in a diaper pail box, paying for the lower-priced diaper pail box at checkout and leaving the store without paying for the electronics or higher-priced items inside the diaper pail box.)
“These suspects made a good living systematically stealing. Retail theft is a serious problem in Polk County and in Florida. This isn’t just shoplifting; this is an organized racketeering business that costs retailers and consumers millions of dollars every year.” said Grady Judd, Polk County Sheriff in a news release.
There have been 135 Wal-Mart thefts in Florida, totaling $178, 929.25 in losses reported. with 25 reported in Georgia.
The Polk Count Sheriff’s Office says the suspects went to 26 counties in Florida from September 11, 2014 to June 22, 2015. The thefts occurred at Wal-Marts in Walton, Okaloosa, Santa Rose, Escambia, Leon, Columbia, Suwanee, Duval, Hernando, Citrus, Pinellas, Pasco, Volusia, Alachua, Osceola, Orange, Polk, De Soto, Manatee, Hillsborough, Bay, Brevard, Seminole, St. Lucie and Charlotte counties in Florida.
On May 7, 2015, the organized shoplifting ring visited Wal-Marts in Haines City, Winter Haven, Auburndale, Bartow and Lakeland from 1:54 a.m. to 5:13 a.m. and stole $373 to $1,500 in electronics by stuffing the items in diaper pail boxes. One attempt to steal electronics failed when a store manager watched them inside the store.