|EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2876 - August 23, 2012 - ISSN 1539-5065 4 of 6|
A Florida man and his mother have been arrested in connection with an extensive and long-running theft operation that authorities allege saw more than $1 million in stolen merchandise sell on a pair of eBay stores.
Arrest documents detail an operation involving a shoplifting variant known as box-stuffing, where Ignatius Michael Pollara, 46, was alleged to have entered stores, selected a large, low-priced item, emptied its contents and then filled the box with smaller, pricier merchandise and head to the checkout.
A Toys R Us employee at the Boynton Beach, Fla., location became suspicious after noticing that all the Harry Potter Lego sets in a section that she had reviewed during morning inventory were missing. The store manager reviewed surveillance footage that showed that the missing merchandise had not been purchased at checkout. All told, nearly $900 worth of Legos were missing.
Store personnel later found the merchandise that had been discarded from the large box, and transaction records showed that it had been purchased using a loyalty card that investigators were able to track.
Working with a Toys R Us investigator, police began to monitor Pollara's movements, observing him as he visited various stores and missing merchandise allegedly showed up on his eBay shops, where the investigator would purchase the items and hand them over to authorities.
Dating from May 9, when Toys R Us opened its investigation, Pollara was alleged to have visited 139 Toys R Us locations in 27 states, ranging from Arizona to Massachusetts, Oregon to Florida. Activity linked to the loyalty card amounted to 175 purchases totaling more than $6,700.
Pollara allegedly sold the stolen merchandise on his two eBay stores, Linemart and Buymart-USA, which have since been closed.
Investigators issued a subpoena to eBay seeking account information, sales histories, transaction records and other information. The records revealed that the Linemart store had processed nearly $204,000 in sales, while Buymart-USA had netted slightly more than $706,000. Additionally, another eBay seller, Catherine Hettinger, ran an eBay store that sold many of the same products that Pollara had allegedly stolen, with sales of more than $700,000, and she had made several payments by PayPal to Pollara, according to the arrest affidavit. Police believe that Pollara would ship some of the merchandise he allegedly stole to Hettinger for her to sell on her own eBay store.
Florida police observed Pollara's mother, Margaret, 70, in the stores at the same time as her son, when she would serve as a lookout and help switch the merchandise, they said.
In Broward County, Fla., Pollara is charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud, one count of dealing in stolen property, five counts of grand theft, four counts of criminal conspiracy and two counts of felony petit theft.
Margaret Pollara is charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud, two counts of grand theft, two counts of criminal conspiracy and one count of theft.
"It is an unfortunate fact that with any channel of commerce, criminals try to beat the system," eBay spokesman Ryan Moore said in an email. "eBay continues to be proactive and collaborative with both retailers and law enforcement to stop theft."
The National Retail Federation has pegged the losses that retailers suffer at the hands of organized criminal activity at between $15 billion and $30 billion.
Federal legislation to strengthen the enforcement of the prohibition against selling stolen goods across state lines was introduced in 2008 and again in 2009, but the E-Fencing Enforcement Act did not move out of committee.
Other bills have been offered that would more broadly address issues of organized retail crime, but in the absence of movement on those measures, many states have enacted their own laws.
About the Author
About the author:
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects since 2007, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here.
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