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Tampa Bay area a hot spot for organized retail theft

Central Florida — Tampa and Orlando — and South Florida each made the first national top 10 list of hubs of organized retail crime.

Florida's two biggest population centers ranked up there with Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay area and Washington/Baltimore, according to a National Retail Federation survey of top retail loss prevention executives.

There was no breakdown. Markets were listed in alphabetical order.

As opposed to shoplifting, organized retail crime is committed by rings of thieves who steal goods to resell them for cash.

Some big recent cases in Central Florida: Hackers in 2008 stole 1.6 million credit card numbers from Sweetbay and used blank gift cards to turn them into cash; one group was arrested using card numbers on bogus gift cards they used to pay for thousands of gallons of diesel from a Murphy Oil in Gibsonton, then resell the fuel; the same year, a Tampa and Orlando theft ring was accused of stealing more than $100 million in products over several years from supermarkets and drugstores, then selling the goods in online auctions and at local flea markets.

This week a four-person ring in Daytona Beach was charged with cleaning out merchandise — including $25,000 in cigarettes — at several Publix and CVS stores, which was then resold to convenience stores.

Six of 10 store loss-prevention executives surveyed said their chain has experienced an increase in organized retail crime in the past year.

More than 90 percent said their chains had been hit by organized theft rings, down from 92 percent in 2009.

The NRF recently reached an accord with eBay, the online auction site, to start identifying stolen goods that appear for sale on the auction website.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Tampa Bay area a hot spot for organized retail theft 06/10/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 10, 2010 9:39pm]
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