Broward Crininal Lawyer Discusses Florida Retail Theft Task Force Aims to Take Down Shoplifters

The Fort Lauderdale couple succeeded in devising a creative retail theft plan that actually worked – at least for a while.
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The two, who share an infant together, were able to heist some $36,000 worth of merchandise over the course of 50 transactions at various toy stores.

However, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys understand that their bond amounts collectively amounted to their total alleged take in the scheme. Their modus operandi allegedly involved the purchase of one or two big-ticket items. A few days later, the two would return to the store, grab those same items off the shelves and then “return” those items for cash, using the original receipts. Many of the original items the couple then resold online.

Their scheme eventually unraveled when security officers, who had caught on to the operation, got law enforcement involved and a search warrant was secured. When the two entered one of the locations in Pembroke Pines, detectives were called and the couple was arrested on charges of grand theft, fraud and burglary.

Creative though their plans were, such operations are not unique, according to local, state and federal officials. This is why authorities have announced the formation of a retail task force, centralized in South Florida. A recent country-wide survey by the National Retail Federation revealed that retail theft losses in America amount to some $30 billion annually. The Miami metropolitan area ranks fourth in the U.S. for organized retail theft activity.

The task force, which will involve local, state and federal investigators, will be homing in on larger-scale, organized theft operations. Still, we suspect the number of smaller cases will spike as well, with store security and other staffers being hyper-vigilant on the issue.

Another higher-stakes shoplifting case was reported recently in Fort Lauderdale at a box chain electronics store, where officials say a pair of individuals broke in by cutting a hole in a side wall of a neighboring business. Surveillance cameras show the two ransacking the display cases, making off with some $90,000 worth of equipment. Officials believe that is linked to an earlier report of a similar theft at the same store, though at a different location, back in April. Officials are also exploring whether there could be a link between this and a similar rash of retail burglaries in Largo.

Theft is defined in Florida Statute 812.014 as knowingly obtaining or using – or trying to obtain or use – someone else’s property with the intent to deprive them of said property either temporarily or permanently. The severity of the charge depends on how much was allegedly stolen.

Taking of property valued at under $300 is going to be considered petty theft. Anything above that but less than $20,000 is going to be deemed a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Between $20,000 and $100,000, it’s going to be a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years. Anything above $100,000, and you could be looking at as much as 30 years in prison.

All of this doesn’t even delve into the fact that such burglaries are often charged in connection with other crimes, such as burglary or fraud.

While there is a tendency to think of shoplifting as a relatively minor crime, the fact is, having a conviction for such an offense on your record is likely to significantly impact your future employment options, among other things.

Simply pleading guilty is almost never the best answer.

If you are charged with theft in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Couple accused of more than 50 thefts from kids’ stores, June 26, 2013, By Wayne K. Roustan, Sun Sentinel
Federal task force to combat organized retail theft in S. Fla., July 9, 2013, By Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
“Bong Ban” in Florida Becomes Law July 1, July 2, 2013, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

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