It was not so long ago that shoplifting was considered a minor crime typically committed by teen age kids stealing a pack of gum, perhaps a small amount of fake jewelry or even a pack of cigarettes. No longer. A metropolitan police task force, on the trail to bust what they thought was a drug ring, instead uncovered more than $3 million dollars in stolen merchandise in a Hazel Park warehouse. The sophisticated theft ring, which was operated by a group of five (5) individuals, routinely stole $9,000 to $15,000 worth of merchandise from retailers per day. Stolen merchandise items ranged from hair care and beauty products to over the counter medications and were taken from CVS and Walgreens drug stores as well as a number of other stores. The stolen merchandise was stored, marketed and then routinely resold online via numerous websites including eBay, Craigslist and Amazon.
In response to increasing theft rings like the one highlighted above, Michigan enacted The Organized Retail Crime Act which went into effect early last year. Here is a link to the statute:
In effect, this newer law is aimed at people who steal things with the express purpose of reselling them – a task made far easier with the advent of online sellers - adding a five (5) year felony to serious theft activities above and beyond the typical shoplifting scenario. It is estimated that shoplifting alone accounts for $35 billion dollars nationally in annual losses and, in turn, costs the average consumer about $500 per year as retailers are forced to boost prices to compensate for these losses.
How does this new law come into play? In the past, if a shoplifter stole items between $200 and $1,000 (presumably to keep for themselves but perhaps to re-sell a few items) they would typically expect to be charged with second-degree retail fraud, a one (1) year misdemeanor. However, under the new law, if it can be determined that any of the items were intended for resale the shoplifter is now opened to the charge of organized retail crime and the potential five (5) year prison sentence attached to it.
In today's struggling economy it is clear that there is an uptick in crimes motivated by perceived financial gain and reward. As crimes increase, so does the risk and now the legal consequences associated with that risk. What may once have been perceived as a "petty crime" with acceptable consequences may now unwittingly result in a long prison sentence.
If you have any further questions or need assistance about retail fraud or any other criminal matter, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time for an absolutely free consultation.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice please contact Freedman & Freedman or an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.