Retail Theft Crime Ring Busted in South Florida Caused $20 Million in Losses

Earlier today, Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody announced that Florida’s Office of Statewide Prosecution filed criminal charges against 14 defendants for involvement in the retail theft ring.

During a press conference with other law enforcement officials from the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, the Coral Springs Police Department and the Pembroke Pines Police Department, Moody disclosed that the criminal enterprise operated in at least nine judicial circuits and caused more than $20 million in losses to more than 20 different retailers across Florida—including Walmart, Target, Publix, Home Depot, Lowes and more.

“In Florida, we are fighting back against organized retail theft,” Moody said. “We will not allow this crime, occurring rampantly in other parts of our country, to wreak havoc on our consumers and businesses. Thanks to great collaborative efforts between my Office of Statewide Prosecution and our amazing law enforcement partners, this massive criminal enterprise, which caused more than $20 million in losses, is out of business.”

According to an official statement from the office of the attorney general, dozens of serial retail thieves brought stolen items to a first-level illicit distributor, Arland Cata. Cata purchased the stolen merchandise from the thieves, valued at least $1 million, and paid the criminals 5% to 10% of the items’ retail value. Cata then sold those items to a higher-level distributor, Joshua Markell. Markell owned an Amazon storefront, Hollywoodseller, to sell the stolen items to unsuspecting consumers across the country. This past year, the Hollywoodseller Amazon storefront made more than $5 million in sales. Markell paid Cata approximately $1.2 million for stolen merchandise from January to September. Markell and Cata employed several individuals that assisted with the inventory and transport of the stolen items to Amazon.

Retailers impacted by the criminal enterprise include Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Publix, Winn Dixie, Fresco Y Mas, Navarro, Home Depot, Lowes, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target, Sam Ash, Best Buy, Harbor Freight, Guitar Center, Golf Galaxy, Macy’s, BJ’s, Costco—along with various pool supply stores and small music businesses.

The investigation resulted in law enforcement seizing more than $1.2 million in stolen merchandise that Markell intended to sell on Amazon—more than 4,800 stolen items. Markell shipped more than 100,000 items to Amazon for the Hollywoodseller this year.

Charges against the 14 individuals involved with the ring include racketeering, organized retail theft, grand theft, dealing in stolen property and other conspiracy charges based on roles within the criminal enterprise.