As Hayes International’s 27th Annual Retail Theft Survey provides an actual account of shoplifter-related apprehensions elsewhere within this newsletter, this is one crime that must not be ignored; in fact, it may be costing America much more than we are aware of.
Sure, we have all heard about how retailers are forced to pass along some of the costs associated with these criminal losses in order to stay in business. Furthermore, many of us are clearly aware that this financial damage extends well beyond the manufacturing and retail industries and includes taxes lost by the states. In addition, there are numerous potential health and safety risks to individuals purchasing expired or contaminated stolen and repackaged consumable products such as infant formula, over-the-counter medication, and other health items at substantial discounts from ORC fences who rely on selling their stolen goods on legitimate on-line vendor sites (e-fencing) or at local flea-markets.
To make matters worse, it is highly feasible that this crime has much broader negative implications than many believe. In testimony before the United States Congress’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, evidence was presented that left little doubt that theft of retail goods has links to terrorist organizations with the proceeds being used to help finance their illicit activities.
In fact, three investigations involving large organized retail crime (ORC) rings uncovered evidence that ORC ringleaders had transferred profits from their individual fencing operations to a number of countries known to support terrorist activities. For example, one investigation revealed that a money-laundering operation in Arizona funneled its illicit proceeds to countries where several members of the crime ring had ties, such as Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. This group had been profiting on the sale of stolen infant formula valued at a staggering $22 million. In another investigation, it was discovered that some of the profits were wired to financial institutions in Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine, and additional monies were smuggled out of the U.S. on international flights. Still, in a third case, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) announced that another similar organization was involved in purchasing and selling stolen goods, including infant formula, computers, GPS devices, and cigarettes. Members of that group used convenience stores – where they worked or managed – to fence their stolen goods. Those proceeds were illegally transferred to Palestinian territories.
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Perhaps, the first question that every retailer should be asking themselves: Are we doing enough to minimize shoplifting in our store(s)?
Well, that’s entirely another matter that cannot be covered within this article, so stay tuned for our next edition, and you’ll see my thoughts on this important topic. $