The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has charged five suspects for their alleged participation in an elaborate scheme that stole thousands of dollars from retailers throughout Florida and other states.
A press release Monday informed that Usman Ali, 33, Rand Clark, 58, Gwendolyn Walker, 53, Harold Wilson, 62, and Keith Conyers, 56 had been charged on counts of racketeering and conspiracy to commit grand theft.
According to the press release, the suspects allegedly printed fraudulent barcodes on adhesive stickers and then placed the false barcodes on expensive products at The Home Depot and Target.
Agents believe the theft ring is responsible for at least 100 thefts across 23 Florida counties.
They allegedly printed codes for $7.99 electrical outlets and placed the over barcodes for wireless smart dimmer switches costing $99.95 and home wi-fi systems costing $299.
They also allegedly printed barcodes for $19.97 tool kits and used the fraudulent codes to buy $199 smart thermostats, according to the press release.
The FDLE's investigation found that one suspect placed false barcodes on the items, while another would purchase them, sometimes costing stores thousands of dollars in a single transaction of dozens of fraudulently-barcoded items.
After purchasing, the suspects would allegedly mail the items to another suspect, who would sell them online for large profits, according to the press release.
Agents claim the thefts cost retailers more than $150,000 in the state of Florida alone.
"Think about what these individuals could have achieved if they had spent half as much time thinking about being good, productive citizens instead of this elaborate scheme," said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. "We will work to ensure they have a long time in a prison cell to get their priorities straight."
Moody's Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case.
The Home Depot and Target loss prevention associates assisted with the FDLE's investigation, which kicked off after The Home Depot notified them of a barcode switch scam.
"Organized retail crime is a serious and growing problem for the retail industry," said Director of Home Depot Investigations Mike Combs. "We're grateful to partner with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to track this group and end their multi-state operation."