Man Recruited Homeless To Help Him Steal As Much As $800K From Home Depot

There’s shoplifting, and then there’s organizing a network of people help you pull off illegal activities: law enforcement in Detroit said a man who recruited homeless people and others on the streets to steal from Home Depot made as much as $800,000 over a few years, by returning those shoplifted items for store credit.

The Detroit Free Press has the story of a 46-year-old man who was sent to prison on charges that he ran a criminal enterprise that revolved around scamming Home Depot gift cards.

According to investigators, he’d talk up his recruits at homeless shelters or on the street, and have them steal small but expensive items from Home Depot. His minions would then return the items to the store and get store debit cards, like gift cards, in return.

They would then hand those over to the ringleader, who would pay prostitutes and drug users 20% of the value of the stolen goods, and the homeless people $15-$20 for each successful return. The man would then sell those cards to contractors and customers he met in Home Depot parking lots at a 70% discount.

Officials believe he started his scheme in 2010, gradually scamming Home Depot out of somewhere between $600,000 and $800,000 before police arrested him in March 2015.

“It was a pretty sophisticated scheme,” his defense attorney told the Free Press. “A lot of the people he was using were street people and hard to trace. He was a smart guy, and like all the rest of them, they think they’re never going to get caught.”

He pleaded guilty to running a criminal enterprise and retail fraud, and was sentenced to jail time. When he gets out — anywhere between 4 1/2 years from now to 40 — he’s been ordered to stay out of any and all Home Depot stores.

“This is an example of what people might think is shoplifting,” said a Home Depot spokesperson, “When in fact it is much more organized and has a deeper impact in the community, contributing to other crimes, like drug use. We’re battling this all over the country.”

Scam used addicts, homeless to steal from Home Depot [Detroit Free Press]

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