12 Indicted In Massive Organized Retail Theft Ring That Spanned 28 States, 20 Years

Image courtesy of Great Beyond

When someone mentions the takedown of an organized crime ring, the first thing to come to mind is probably something along the lines of The Sopranos. But in New York today, the Attorney General’s office announced the indictment of 12 organized crime members accused of stealing over $12 million in high-end electronics and ink cartridges from national retailers in 28 states.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the bust of the retail theft ring as part of a 10-month investigation — dubbed “Operation Sticky Fingers” — conducted by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force with support from the New York State Police.

According to the AG’s office, the operation worked by stealing millions of dollars in merchandise – including electronic goods and printer cartridges – from Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, and other retailers across 28 states for more than 20 years.

The agencies allege that organization leader Richard Rimbaugh instructed several theft crews — which consisted of two to three men — to steal specific products based on his ability to resell the stolen goods on Amazon and eBay through his illegitimate business, American Media Soft.

Rimbaugh would pass this information onto “field marshall” George Athanasatos who allegedly managed three of the four theft crews.

Rimbaugh and Athanasatos dispatched the three theft crews on missions to various regions across the country and remotely managed their progress during each undertaking.

The crews were allegedly provided with coded maps detailing target retail locations, such as Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy, and “booster” gear, such as custom-made vests known as “bazookas.”

These vests, the AG’s office claims, were able to conceal a large amount of merchandise. When leaving the stores, the theft crews allegedly used “kryptonite” devices to deactivate security alarms at store exits, as well as short-wave radios, that allowed crews to eavesdrop on store security.

In all, the theft rings would steal from a series of retailers on a daily basis.

Rimbaugh would then receive the goods at his apartment where they were sorted, catalogued, and shipped for resale.

Since 2012 alone, the ring has sold more than $12 million of stolen goods via Amazon and eBay, the AG’s office alleges.

The 10-month investigation into the theft ring consisted of electronic and physical surveillance, as well as analysis of financial records in conjunction with other investigative tools, the AG’s office reported.

“Retail theft is becoming increasingly organized, with crime rings preying on businesses and creating a vicious cycle that ultimately harms consumers, when the costs are passed on in the form of higher prices,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “But these thieves are now on notice: we won’t hesitate to pursue retail theft and prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”

In all, Operation Sticky Fingers seized more than $7.7 million dollars from the defendants’ homes, financial institutions, and Amazon and PayPal merchant accounts, and resulted in the indictment of 12 alleged co-conspirators, who were charged with enterprise corruption, money laundering, criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy.

Those charged are:
• Richard Rimbaugh, a/k/a “The General,” 64
• George Athanasatos, a/k/a “The Field Marshall,” 62
• George Rapatsouleas, a/k/a “Skipper,” a/k/a “Nipplehead,” 31
• Krissylee Harris, a/k/a “Princess,” 35
• Nusret Srdanovic, a/k/a “Monte,” 23
• Roger Ringhiser, a/k/a “Captain Rog,” 53
• Frank Albergo, a/k/a “Lieutenant,” 59
• Kevin Cerrato, a/k/a “Sergeant,” 22
• Gregory Anastasiou, a/k/a “Captain Frank,” 38
• Joseph Pooler, a/k/a “Baby Arm Johnson,” 41
• Robert Scarano, a/k/a “Reno,” 56
• Giovanna Bonello, a/k/a “Lieutenant,” 28

If convicted, each of the defendants face between eight to 25 years behind bars.