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ORC 2-12-15




"Operation Powder Burn" Shuts Down Baby Formula Crime Ring  A major organized crime ring accused of stealing thousands of dollars of baby formula from local grocery stores is out of commission thanks to a successful investigation and enforcement action by Scottsdale Police, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and members of the Arizona Organized Retail Crime Alliance (AZORCA). As a result of their cooperative efforts, dubbed "Operation Powder Burn," 17 defendants are now facing multiple felony counts of organized retail theft, fraudulent schemes, trafficking in stolen property and assisting a criminal syndicate.

"Operation Powder Burn is a prime example of how businesses and law enforcement can work together to shut down criminal organizations," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. "Organized retail crimes of this magnitude harm not only businesses in our community but consumers as well, by reducing inventory and increasing costs. These offenses also provide funds that are frequently used to facilitate other criminal activity," he added.

"Fry's Food Stores is very pleased with the results and the cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the retailers," said Joe Kopelic, Division Loss Prevention Manager for Fry's Food Stores. "These criminals travel and cause harm to our communities and businesses regardless of the city or town and the joint effort is greatly appreciated. We look forward to continued success in these endeavors."

Between September 2013 and January 2014, local grocery stores in multiple cities throughout Maricopa County experienced a dramatic increase in organized retail thefts. The recurring pattern in these incidents involved suspects entering the stores and filling reusable shopping bags or shopping carts with cans of baby formula. The suspects would then exit the store without paying for the formula and leave the scene in a get-away vehicle with the stolen goods. The thefts occurred at numerous stores, including Fry's Safeway, Walmart, Albertson's, Basha's, Winco and Food City.

During the course of their investigation, Loss Prevention Investigators from the affected retailers and Scottsdale Police Detectives learned that Tyler Hanesford (D.O.B. 8/5/1987) taught, directed and paid multiple people to steal the formula and also stole formula himself. Hanesford would then sell the stolen goods to Deborah Lynn Russell (D.O.B. 2/16/1966), who paid an average of $5.64 per can compared to the average retail value of $21.12 per can. On February 13, 2014, investigators served a search warrant at Russell's residence where they discovered and seized more than six thousand cans of baby formula with a retail value of approximately $150,000.

By sharing information and surveillance video through the Arizona Organized Retail Crime Alliance, Loss Prevention Investigators from separate stores were able to provide Scottsdale Police with evidence to identify individual perpetrators and the scope of the crime ring. Detectives were ultimately able to document 94 separate incidents of baby formula thefts from stores in every jurisdiction from Surprise to Apache Junction representing a monetary loss to the retailers of $63,838. The total number of incidents and value of stolen goods attributable to the crime ring is likely much higher.

On August 4, 2014, a Maricopa County Grand Jury handed up a 102-count indictment against Tyler Hanesford, Deborah Russell and 13 accomplices. Two other defendants were charged in a separate indictment. By December, 2014, all the defendants were located and served with the charges. The next scheduled hearing in the case is a case management conference set for February 26, 2015.

An indictment is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Clark County, WA., Sheriff's Office honors deputy who led $2M ORC case
Chris Luque led the investigation that dismantled an organized retail theft ring operating in Washington, Oregon and parts of Nevada that involved over 300 people and more than $2 million in illicit funds. Luque identified the leader of the scheme, 30-year-old Fred James Engh, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Once Engh was arrested, local retailers immediately noticed a drop in theft. JC Penney alone saw a 62 percent decrease in the number of returns, according to the sheriff's office.

ORC gang of five arrested after police chase after hitting Fred Meyer stealing clothes & TV's in Burien, Wash.  Loss prevention officers at the Burien Fred Meyer noticed repeat offenders stealing clothes from the store and reported the suspects to police, King County Sheriff's Office Sgt. DB Gates said. The Fred Meyer staffers gave suspect and vehicle descriptions to aid deputies in their search. A deputy in the area spotted a car matching the description on state Route 518 and tried to pull the car over, but the car continued down the highway and the deputies gave chase in a four-minute pursuit, Gates said. Deputies arrested three men and two women inside the car. They had reportedly taken televisions from Fred Meyer in the past.

Retailer's Alert New ORC Ring ID'ed: Police investigate shoplifting ring in the east Valley - Over a dozen hits - Selling Jeans to re-sale shops  Thieves are targeting stores selling high end jeans in the east Valley-- and they're doing their homework before they get there. The incidents happened at two different locations over the years, but Myers recognized their faces were the same. They called other places selling the same kind of jeans and found out they weren't the only targets. They then called a few used clothing stores and found out women matching the description of the suspects were selling their jeans to resale stores across the Valley. Mesa police are still investigating. The store owners say one of the suspects is a blonde woman, and the other is a pale woman with tattoos who dresses like a man when she robs stores.

Fencing Operation: Passaic Co, NJ Sheriff's Office seizes Counterfeit merchandise; selling $400k to $500k in stolen merchandise  The owner of a Main Street clothing store was arrested Tuesday following a three-month investigation that found he was selling stolen and counterfeit clothing and accessories bearing major brand names like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, according to the Passaic County Sheriff's Office. Andres Grullon, 56-year-old, of Clifton, was charged with second-degree counterfeiting and third-degree fencing and receiving stolen property, authorities said. Grullon's store Kaylee G. Fashion in Paterson is estimated to be selling $400,000-$500,000 worth of stolen merchandise annually, authorities said. Authorities said they received complaints from some of the brands Grullon was selling. A representative from Victoria's Secret informed authorities Grullon was selling merchandise that were exclusively sold at the company's stores leading to an investigation.

Huntsville, AL woman connected to 10 Jewelry Store thefts in Southern California; nearly $50,000  A woman has been arrested in connection with 10 jewelry thefts from high-end Southern California stores, including several in Orange County. Thu Thao Thi Vu, 59, of Huntsville, Ala. has been arrested on multiple counts of commercial burglary, Jennifer Manzella, a spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Police Department, said. Since 2012, Vu has visited California on several occasions, for weeks at a time, Manzella said. She was arrested in Garden Grove on Friday, based on information gathered during the police investigation. Vu is believed to have targeted malls and shopping centers in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino counties, where she would use distraction techniques to steal jewelry from high-end department stories, Manzella said. She is suspected of working alone, Manzella said. The value of the stolen items is more than $47,600. During her most recent trip to California, Vu is believed to have frequented a dozen shopping malls and shopping centers, including Fashion Island in Newport Beach, The Outlets at Orange, South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Westfield MainPlace in Santa Ana and Westminster Mall, Manzella said.

ORC man arrested committing 14 frauds at convenience stores in Lansing, MI.

34 diamond rings worth $13K stolen from Rock Hill, SC Walmart

ORC 2-12-15
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