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Another retail theft group charged by Moody’s office

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(The Center Square) – Another retail theft group has been charged by Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, this time for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from Home Depot stores.

Criminal charges and investigations continue as the OSP has been prioritizing retail theft in Florida. Last fall, criminal investigations uncovered millions of dollars in stolen goods and murdered suspects OSP helped prosecute.

One case, “Operation On the Fence,” focused on a large retail theft criminal enterprise operating in South Florida in at least nine judicial circuits where perpetrators caused over $20 million in losses to more than 20 different retailers statewide.

In another operation, OSP attorneys secured a sentence and restitution order for a leader of an organized retail theft ring in 15 counties primarily selling stolen items on Facebook Marketplace.

In the most recent case, OSP attorneys charged three individuals in an investigation conducted by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement. Investigators found the perpetrators allegedly switched barcodes on expensive roof sealers for less-expensive items.

Over a three-year period, the alleged perpetrators stole 281 buckets of roof sealer in more than 25 theft incidents from Home Depot stores in 11 counties in South and Central Florida. They reportedly stole from two to three stores a day, switching barcodes on four to 16 buckets per transaction, according to the investigation.

“This group switched barcodes at self-checkout stations on expensive roof sealers for items that cost 95-97% less, and hit multiple Home Depot stores a day – ultimately stealing more than $100,000,” Moody said. “Florida is a law-and-order state, and we are dismantling organized retail theft rings. Now, this group faces our Statewide Prosecutors and time in prison, where I can promise there is no self-checkout line.”

One of the alleged thieves has been charged with one count of grand theft over $100,000; two individuals were each charged with one count of grand theft over $20,000. All were charged with one count of scheme to defraud over $20,000.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is currently working with the Florida legislature to increase penalties for retail theft.

Proposed changes include increasing penalties to a third-degree felony if retail theft is committed by five or more individuals; to a second-degree felony if social media is used to solicit others to participate in retail theft; and to a first degree felony if the theft is committed with a firearm or the offender has two or more prior convictions of retail theft. Changes to the law would also reduce the value of stolen property necessary to charge criminals with a felony for stealing delivered packages.

“If you commit a crime in Florida, you are going to be held accountable,” he said earlier this month. “We will not tolerate retail crime, porch pirates and the lawlessness that they allow in California and New York.”

The tough on crime policy also coincides with DeSantis’ and Moody’s commitment to bolstering law enforcement efforts in the state. More than 4,000 police officers have moved to Florida or become new recruits through Florida’s law enforcement recruitment bonus program begun in 2022.