MAINE RETAIL CRIME FIGHTERS HONORED AT REGIONAL INDUSTRY EVENT

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 by Curtis Picard

Retail, Organized Retail Crime

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Worcester, MA— On Thursday, September 17th a group of Maine loss prevention and law enforcement professionals were honored at the New England Organized Retail Crime Symposium and Tradeshow at the DCU Center. Sponsored by the state retail associations of the six New England states including the Retail Association of Maine, the event aims to raise awareness to the growing problem of organized retail crime (ORC) through information sharing, educational presentations by industry leaders and exposure to cutting edge theft prevention technologies.

The event serves as the venue for the annual NEORC awards which recognize individuals that go above and beyond in their efforts to combat ORC activity. A group of Maine loss prevention and law enforcement professionals were honored with the Loss Prevention Case of the Year Award.

This year’s Loss Prevention Case of the Year was a true coordinated effort between loss prevention and local, state and federal law enforcement.  The case began as an investigation at a single Walmart location in Palmyra, ME. It led to a four month investigation involving several locations across Maine including Bangor and Ellsworth and ended in the bust of an elaborate organized crime ring and fencing operation.

After experiencing a pattern of thefts at the Palmyra Walmart, Alex Jones, the location’s Asset Protection Manager, discovered an account on an online website selling goods similar to those being stolen including items like Crest Whitestrips, Legos, disposable razors and more. Jones, along with Walmart Market Asset Protection Manager, James Bryant, then began building a case to bring to the Maine State Police. 

Working in cooperation with the Walmart team, the Maine State Police investigation, overseen by Lt. Mark Brooks, and conducted by lead investigators Detective Chris Tupper and Trooper Chris Crawford, revealed the true breadth of criminal activity stretching across central Maine. Focusing on the online account, investigators were able to identify the location of the fence and the operation’s key players.

With the help of local and federal law enforcement search warrants were executed on three homes and a number of bank vaults resulting in recovered merchandise, seizure of cash in the amount of $250,000 and seizure of gold and silver worth $100,000. The total estimated value of the bust is nearly $500,000.  The case is now in the hands of federal prosecutors due to its size and scope as well as the possibility for federal tax evasion charges.

The case was chosen not only for its large scope, but more importantly its demonstration of the benefits of cooperative partnerships between the loss prevention community and law enforcement. Thanks to their investigative efforts, James Bryant and Alex Jones of Walmart and Lieutenant Mark Brooks, Detective Chris Tupper and Trooper Chris Crawford of the Maine State police were recognized as representative recipients of the award. 

“I am very proud of the efforts of Maine’s retail loss prevention and law enforcement professionals for their work on this case. For many years, we have helped educate policymakers that ORC is a serious issue in Maine and this case demonstrates that it does happen here. The award winners are very deserving of this recognition,” stated Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine.

During the last legislative session, Maine lawmakers unanimously passed LD 310, Maine’s first ORC bill sponsored by Senator Amy Volk of Cumberland. Set to take effect on October 15, 2015, LD 310 will provide an additional tool in the belt of loss prevention, law enforcement and prosecutors to combat the ORC problem. It will enable Maine to more easily prosecute ORC groups that work in concert and hit multiple stores at once.  It is estimated that ORC accounts for annual losses of $40 billion nationally. 

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