(Bloomberg) – The alleged ringleader of an elaborate scheme to steal luxury goods from Bloomingdale’s, Sephora and other retail outlets and resell them on Amazon and eBay had big dreams, the authorities said. New York authorities announcing charges against 41 people.
Roni Rubinov, accused of leading a ring of thieves in New York that disguised theft as isolated ‘smash and grab’ incidents, even signed a lease in 2019 on a warehouse in which he planned to open some kind of “department store” of stolen goods, the town hall announced on Thursday.
New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Mayor Eric Adams revealed the alleged scam at a press conference in Lower Manhattan, where they described a “massive retail theft operation in which a team of “boosters” fanned out across town to lift goods from stores. The indictment includes charges of criminal possession of stolen property and money laundering.
James and Adams said law enforcement seized more than $3.8 million in stolen property from Rubinov, citing more than 550 gift cards and payment cards. James promised to “restore an environment where New Yorkers feel safe” and to “protect businesses” in the city and “uphold the rule of law.”
Adams said the bust showed he “will not condone crime – street crime, retail crime or organized crime.”
“It wasn’t just shoplifting, it was people going into stores and clearing shelves” as part of an organized racketeering, Adams said. In an apparent reference to the criticism of prosecuting shoplifters, he said “it was greed” and that repressing it was not “criminalizing poverty”.
A lawyer for Rubinov could not immediately be identified to comment on the charges.
The investigation was triggered in part by the business community. Kathryn Wylde, executive director of the Partnership for New York City, raised the issue several times with officials last year, James said. New York City Police Department investigators also worked with security teams from Macy’s, Rite Aid, CVS Pharmacy and Lowe’s. The stolen goods included cosmetics and other pharmacy items.
Sound the alarm
This type of collaboration is common in the city, and some retailers are even paying NYPD officers to work after hours in their stores. In fiscal year 2021, retailers spent about $32 million on these shifts, a 70% increase from four years prior, according to city budget figures.
Retailers have sounded the alarm over organized theft and large-scale theft, but their prevalence is unclear. Theft accounts for an average of 0.07% of sales per year, according to the National Retail Federation. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged more than $250 million to help combat retail theft, and the state attorney general’s office is set to create a unit dedicated to him.
Last year, New York City reported its third-lowest robbery total – theft over $1,000 – in a decade, although police department crime figures include theft beyond that. retailers. Yet these incidents have increased by 52% so far this year.
The state recently reclassified property theft as a more serious crime. A 2019 law that eliminated cash bail and required those arrested for most non-violent misdemeanors and felonies to be released while awaiting their court date was revised in April, after critics accused the change of a increase in crime, despite the lack of evidence.
Under the original law, a judge could not hold a defendant on cash bail for shoplifting. With the review, judges can set bail in some cases.
–With assistance from Erik Larson.
© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.