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2011 Archives

Target ORC Case involved an insider in Texas San Antonio police arrested a second suspect in what they believe was a theft ring that targeted local Target stores. John Ramos, 25, was booked into the Bexar County Jail Tuesday on a charge of organized retail theft. Based on an arrest affidavit, it appears police believe Ramos was acting as the "fence" in the operation, the person who would sell merchandise stolen from Target stores. The affidavit stated investigators found evidence showing Ramos had sold more than $20,000 worth of stolen items on the internet by listing them on eBay. Two weeks ago, police arrested Andres Hernandez, 38, a former Target employee. Investigators said Hernandez had been using his inside knowledge of the business to pull off the thefts. In some cases, however, they believe he simply loaded items into shopping carts and wheeled them out of the store. The affidavit for Ramos stated police said they found him through information they obtained during questioning of a suspect who had already been arrested, presumably Hernandez. Investigators said at the time they were looking into the possibility that several people were involved in the operation. (Source

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada ORC gang of 5 arrested after hitting 7 stores including Lululemon. Five people suspected of being an organized ring of shoplifters from the lower mainland were arrested at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal Saturday. Five people were arrested by Victoria Police with the help of Sidney RCMP. A Budget rental van with in excess of $30,000 worth of merchandise was seized. Police say the merchandise included 71 pairs of Lululemon pants and nine leather jackets. At least 7 stores were hit. Police say the merchandise will be returned to the stores. Jordan Stout manages Still Life boutique on Johnson Street. He says in the early afternoon downtown merchants began reporting the shoplifting incidents to police and to other stores. "It was entire sections of their stores -- it sounded like a group of people doing it, maybe using a distraction. Then after the people had left [the merchants] realized an entire rack had been just lifted out of the store or an entire couple of shelves of merchandise." He says they avoided getting hit after being tipped off by a jewelry store on Government Street. "They let us know there was a crew of people in the neighborhood that were doing a little distracting and scooping of goods, so we were aware of it a bit earlier in the afternoon and let some of our neighbors know." The three men and two women are all from the lower mainland and well known to police. They will be held for a telebail hearing Sunday. They could be charged with theft and possession of stolen property. Police allege the group used tactics to distract store employees, then went into storerooms or simply scooped up goods from shop floors. (Source

UPDATED: Fraud ring strikes Target stores in 11 counties in Pa. and Delaware NORRISTOWN – Two men have been charged with operating a fraud ring that used fake UPC labels to defraud Target stores in 11 counties, including Montgomery, Chester, Berks and Delaware, out of more than $24,000. Target stores that were victims of the alleged thieves included those in Pottstown, Plymouth Meeting and Cheltenham in Montgomery County; Exeter, Muhlenberg and Wyomissing in Berks County; Malvern in Chester County; and Springfield in Delaware County. Damian Alexander Gasdaska, 35, of Phillipsburg, N.J., and Eugene Joseph Romano, age unavailable, of Center Valley, Lehigh County, were charged Thursday with corrupt organizations, organized retail theft, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and conspiracy in connection with the alleged fraud ring that operated between February and July 2011. "Sometimes we see theft cases where people are living very high on the hog, with very luxurious items. These people were just using the money to live. This became their job," alleged Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, whose office is prosecuting the crimes. "Instead of doing legitimate work and instead of just earning an honest day’s wages for an honest day’s work, they were stealing and using the money to live." Authorities alleged the thieves would use fake UPC, or Universal Product Code, labels to purchase items, at well below their actual cost, and then sell the items for profit on eBay. Authorities estimated that since 2008, Gasdaska’s corrupt organization collected more than $172,000 in revenue by selling the stolen items on eBay. "That’s quite a considerable living. That’s an enormous amount of money," Ferman alleged.

In addition to Gasdaska and Romano, authorities are still searching for several unidentified accomplices in the fraud scheme. As part of the scheme, the men allegedly created UPC labels that identified certain merchandise for sale at Target stores. Gasdaska and his conspirators visited the stores and secretly affixed those UPC labels to much higher-priced Target merchandise from the same brands, causing the cashier and cash register to unknowingly "under-ring" each item, allowing them to purchase the merchandise at a small fraction of the actual retail price, authorities alleged. "They would usually target the youngest cashiers who might not either care or be aware of these price differences and then they would purchase items at the lower price point," Ferman alleged.

For example, at the Exeter, Wyomissing, Cheltenham and Plymouth Meeting stores the thieves purchased a $549 Dyson vacuum cleaner for $109 by using fake UPC labels, according to court papers. At stores in Pottstown, Malvern and Springfield, Delaware County, the thieves purchased Medela breast pumps, which normally sold for about $280 for about $35, according to the criminal complaint. The men also purchased Bose speakers and home theaters and even special Lego sets at reduced prices during the alleged scheme. After purchasing the items, the men then placed the items for sale online by creating fraudulent eBay accounts to sell the items to the unsuspecting public "at a lower than retail price but much higher than the price that they paid," Ferman alleged. "Gasdaska and his alleged accomplices used false and stolen identities to carry out their scheme while hiding their true identities," said Ferman, alleging Gasdaska was able to transfer the sales revenues to an online account and then to a personal bank account which also were opened using fraudulent information. Gasdaska was caught laundering the proceeds from a bank account to his personal checking account by using Walmart "Moneygram" money orders, authorities alleged. During the investigation, authorities obtained video surveillance that depicted Gasdaska and his alleged accomplices carrying out the scheme.

Authorities uncovered 46 individual retail thefts from Target stores in the 11 counties between February and July, according to the arrest affidavit filed by Cheltenham Detective Daniel M. Schaefer. The stores also were located in Lehigh, Bucks, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Luzerne, Northampton and Philadelphia counties, according to court papers. "I think they picked Target because of their own comfort level, maybe they knew the stores. There’s certainly nothing about Target that would make them an easier mark or an easier target than anyplace else," Ferman said.

"That’s why this is such an important message to get out, right now as we approach the holiday season. Retailers need to be aware of this sort of a scheme and take precautions to make sure they do not become victims. The thieves out there are incredibly clever, they are sophisticated and manipulative and smart and they’re looking for ways that they can cheat and steal and so retailers really need to be very mindful of those prospects and of those risks out there," Ferman added. Ferman recognized Target, Walmart and eBay "for the extensive cooperation and valuable assistance" they provided to law enforcement during the investigation.

The case will be prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Steven Latzer. Lehigh County District Attorney James B. Martin joined Ferman at the news conference. "Organized retail theft really knows no boundaries - it’s a significant problem that we all face," Martin said. "Hopefully, we’ll send a message to people who are like-minded that law enforcement is onto this and we’re working very hard to curtail it." Cheltenham detectives began the investigation after Target loss prevention officials reported their suspicions about the alleged scheme after observing Gasdaska in the Cheltenham store on Shoppers Lane, court papers indicate. "Once this was discovered, they were able to go back over their records and find transactions and find video surveillance -- so they were able to gather information and evidence from the stores but it took somebody paying attention, somebody catching it," Ferman said.

Atlanta family hit 15 Target stores in theft scam Alpharetta GA Nov 9 2011 Store security and police in Alpharetta have busted an alleged family shoplifting crew that targeted Target stores across the metro Atlanta area, Channel 2 Action News reports. About 6 p.m. Saturday, security spotted five people – including two juvenile girls – trying to steal more than $1,700 in CDs, DVDs, clothing, handbags and a bottle of Dove soap from the Target at 6000 North Point Parkway, police said. "This family/crew is known to Target loss prevention around the metro area," police said. They allegedly have hit 15 Target stores – and the store in Alpharetta twice. (Source

Two arrested for their roles in a national identity theft ring that stole over $9 million. Robert A. Hill, 49 years old, formerly from Emanuel County, along with Robert A. Smith, 46, were taken into custody in Atlanta Wednesday, Nov. 2. for their roles in a national identity theft ring. According to the investigation, Hill and Smith were among several suspects across the country who obtained fake driver's licenses under victims' names and used those identities to apply for credit at big box retailers, including Target, Sam's Club and Walmart. After buying expensive items at these stores, investigators said the suspects would sell them on eBay. They said Hill had been involved in this scheme for more than 15 years and had stolen about $9 million from his victims. The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office assisted U.S. Secret Services agents with the case, as several of Hill and Smith's apparent victims lived in Cherokee County. The investigation began when a Cherokee resident reported someone opening credit card accounts in his or her name. "Identity fraud is a growing crime in the U.S. today," Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison said in a statement. Cherokee County investigators seized several pieces of evidence during their investigation, including a 1999 Lexus, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and more than $91,000 in cash. As of Thursday morning, Hill was out of jail on $110,400 bond. Smith remained in custody with no bond. Police expect to make more arrests in this case. (Source

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