Twelve people have been indicted in a multimillion-dollar scheme to steal merchandise from retail stores in 28 states, including New York, and resell the stolen products on Amazon and eBay, officials said Wednesday.
The alleged thieves resold at least $12 million in merchandise stolen from stores like Staples, Best Buy and Office Depot in New York City and across the nation since 2012, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
He called the takedown one of the "largest-ever busts of a retail theft ring."
Over the course of the 10-month probe, dubbed "Operation Sticky Fingers," investigators seized more than 5,300 stolen electronics and ink cartridges from alleged members of the criminal enterprise. Nearly $8 million was taken from the defendants' homes, banks and Amazon and PayPal accounts.
The accused kingpin of the scheme, 64-year-old Richard Rimbaugh, who goes by the name "the General," has allegedly been directing theft crews and reselling stolen goods for more than two decades, Schneiderman said.
According to the indictment, Rimbaugh allegedly instructed crews of thieves to steal specific printer cartridges, computer software and other retail electronics based on their resell value. He typically paid the crews 30 to 50 percent of the retail value for the stolen merchandise, the indictment alleges.
Rimbaugh then allegedly resold the stolen merchandise on the internet through his illegitimate business, American Media Soft, which he operated out of his Manhattan apartment. Five packages of stolen merchandise arrived at Rimbaugh's home as investigators executed the search warrant, Schneiderman says.
Over the 20 years of the ring’s operation, Rimbaugh is accused of reinvesting roughly half of the proceeds into the criminal enterprise in the form of cash payments to the theft crews.
Information on an attorney for him wasn't immediately available.
The suspects, men and women from New York to Las Vegas who range in age from 22 to 64, were arrested Tuesday in connection with the sweeping 41-count indictment. They are charged with enterprise corruption, money laundering, criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy, and face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
The investigation was conducted by the attorney general’s Organized Crime Task Force with support from the New York State Police. Neither Amazon nor eBay could immediately be reached for comment on the takedown.
One of the main suspects named in the indictment is also charged in a separate case with welfare fraud conspiracy for allegedly helping a woman illegally obtain housing benefits from the Nassau County Department of Social Services.