ATLANTA — An organized retail theft ring that targeted 70 Home Depot stores in six states has been taken down by multi-agency task force after the arrest of three men in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Two other suspects are still be sought.
According to an announcement by New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, the alleged shoplifters committed thefts at multiple stores per day, stealing hundreds of dollars in merchandise by “under-ringing” it through self checkout areas. They allegedly engaged in over 500 illegal transactions resulting in estimated losses that exceeded $100,000. While the majority of the alleged crimes took place in New Jersey, stores in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia were also targeted.
“Our investigation uncovered a ring of foreign nationals who we allege were highly systematic and prolific in their thefts from Home Depot stores. They allegedly struck multiple stores on most days, and could rack up well over $1,000 a day in stolen goods,” said Attorney General Chiesa.
The ring members allegedly stole items that were relatively expensive from the Home Depot stores by going through the self-checkout areas and not properly scanning the items. They allegedly would use various tactics to hide their “under-ringing” activity in the self-checkout area from security cameras and any employee assigned to the area. In some instances, a second ring member would distract the store employee.
The following five men have been arrested or are being sought on warrants:
Julio Arriola Suarez, 49, of West New York, aka Jimmy R. Alcivar, the alleged leader of the retail theft ring, was arrested on April 3 in Jersey City;
David Pulgarin, 28, formerly of Union City and West New York, was served with a warrant on April 2 at the Lehigh County Prison in Allentown, Pa.;
Julio Duque Barahona, 30, was served with a warrant today at the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in Brocton, N.Y.;
Nicolas Arriola Cortez, 48, formerly of Union City, is being sought on a warrant; and
Javier Duque Piza, 56, formerly of West New York, is being sought on a warrant.
The charges resulted from an ongoing joint investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the United States Secret Service, conducted with assistance from the Home Depot Corporation. The ring members are foreign nationals from Central and South America who were based in Hudson County, N.J.
All five men are charged with second-degree crimes of conspiracy and shoplifting. The shoplifting charges are graded as second-degree crimes under New Jersey law because they allegedly involved thefts totaling more than $1,000 in merchandise committed as part of an organized retail theft enterprise. Suarez also faces a second-degree charge of leading an organized retail theft enterprise.
Suarez is being held in the Morris County Jail with bail set at $75,000. He is currently serving a sentence of three years of probation, which was imposed on June 25, 2010, after he pleaded guilty to third-degree charges of conspiracy and fraudulent use of a credit card. The charges stemmed from his arrest on July 20, 2009 outside a BJ’s Warehouse in Raritan, where he and another man were caught with televisions and other items stolen from BJ’s in their vehicle.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.