Five people were recently arrested in what Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard called “the largest retail theft ring” he had even seen. The theft ring, which investigators initially thought involved drugs, turned out to be related to the theft of almost $3 million in stolen goods including Victoria’s Secret lingerie, according to a news article at Mlive.com.
Investigators received a tip regarding what was believed to be a theft ring involving methamphetamine. What investigators found upon investigating the tip included 10 trailers filled with stolen merchandise at a warehouse in Hazel Park.
Bouchard said that the well-organized crime syndicate appeared to be doing very well, and had been operating for years. According to Bouchard, the theft ring had used about $200,000 in illegal proceeds to invest in the purchase of the warehouse, a transaction that took place about nine months ago.
The Narcotics Enforcement Team received a tip in February of this year which indicated that members of the group were pharmacy shopping various pharmacies in an effort to gather ingredients used in making meth. Upon investigating, it was determined the group was actually shoplifting goods and then selling the merchandise online at Amazon, eBay, and other sites. Five conspirators ranging in age from 23 to 47 were arrested.
Retail fraud is a very serious crime in the state of Michigan, and will leave those convicted facing serious criminal charges. First-degree retail fraud involves the theft of property or merchandise valued at $1,000 or more. Theft can be accomplished in a variety of ways, whether an individual alters or switches a price tag in order to get the item at a reduced price, physically carries the goods from the store without paying for them, or tries to get a refund on merchandise that was never paid for initially and was stolen from that store.
First-degree retail fraud is a felony in Michigan, and leaves those convicted facing criminal penalties which include a fine of $10,000 or three times the value of the stolen goods, whichever is greater. Defendants will also face up to 5 years in prison. It is important to note that penalties may be more severe depending on factors such as criminal history or if another crime was perpetrated in conjunction with retail fraud.
If you have been accused of stealing merchandise for your own benefit or to sell in order to profit, consult with a highly qualified Michigan criminal defense attorney right away for effective legal support and guidance.