TRENTON – Authorities have arrested the reputed leader and two other alleged members of an organized retail theft ring that targeted approximately 70 Home Depot stores, primarily in New Jersey, but also in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia., Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced Thursday. Arrest warrants have been issued for two additional individuals.
It is alleged that the ring members 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.
The alleged leader of the retail theft ring, Julio Arriola Suarez, 49, of West New York, aka Jimmy R. Alcivar, 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., and Julio Duque Barahona, 30, was served with a warrant Thursday at the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in Brocton, N.Y.;
Nicolas Arriola Cortez, 48, formerly of Union City, and Javier Duque Piza, 56, formerly of West New York, are being sought on warrants.
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 alleged ring members are foreign nationals from Central and South America who were based in Hudson County.
“Organized retail theft is a growing problem in New Jersey and across the U.S. that retailers estimate costs them up to $30 billion a year,” said Chiesa. “Our investigation uncovered a ring of foreign nationals who we allege were highly systematic and prolific in their thefts from Home Depot stores in New Jersey and five other states. They allegedly struck multiple stores on most days, and could rack up well over $1,000 a day in stolen goods.”
“The Division of Criminal Justice and U.S. Secret Service formed a highly effective partnership to track this wide-ranging criminal enterprise, with help from Home Depot Corporation,” said Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Criminal enterprises don’t stop at state borders, and neither did we in our pursuit of this theft ring. Our investigation is ongoing.”
During a recent six-month period, the ring members allegedly committed thefts on more than 150 days, typically striking numerous Home Depot stores and stealing hundreds of dollars in merchandise each day. 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 allegedly distract the store employee.
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.
The investigation is being conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Michael J. Rappa and Detective Sgt. Louis Matirko. Attorney General Chiesa thanked the United States Secret Service Newark Field Office, under the supervision of Special Agent in Charge Jacob Christine, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Newark, under the supervision of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McLees. Chiesa also thanked the Central Investigation Team of Home Depot Corporation, which provided valuable assistance throughout the investigation, as well as the following law enforcement agencies: West New York Police Department, Dover Police Department (Morris County, N.J.), Union Township Police Department, Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, Whitehall (Pa.) Police Department and Lehigh County (Pa.) District Attorney’s Office.
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.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Because the charges are indictable offenses, they will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment.
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.
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