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Organized Retail Theft is Increasing Around the Country

April 07, 2022

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

When people think of retail theft, they typically think of teenagers that steal from stores. However, as law enforcement agencies around the country are learning, retail theft is an offense that does not have an age limit. In the past year or so, organized retail theft has been increasing around the country and for those convicted of this offense, it holds much harsher penalties for those convicted of it.

The Increase of Organized Crime

Organized retail theft has become a growing problem in California and Florida. Although these two states have reported the increase, the chances are that it is already occurring in other states, including Pennsylvania.

In California, individuals associated with a crime ring allegedly used fraudulent coupons to get retail merchandise at either a reduced price, or for free. They then used a Sacramento storefront to resell the items, and even bragged to customers on Facebook that they would “never pay retail.” Meanwhile in Florida, state and local law enforcement broke up a crime ring that encompassed 18 counties. Here, individuals allegedly stole almost $85,000 of diapers, baby formula, and other items that were easy to resell.

Law enforcement has given many reasons for the increase in retail theft associated with organized crime. A few of these include looser police enforcement due to the pandemic and a relaxation in anti-shoplifting laws. However, the pandemic cannot be completely to blame. Many of the figures were taken from March and April of last year, before the pandemic had really started to take hold of the country.

Organized Crime vs. Individual Offenses

It may not seem as though there are many differences between retail theft that is a result of organized crime and offenses that are committed by one individual alone. However, while the offense may seem the same, there are major differences in the eyes of the law.

Any offenses that are considered to be part of organized crime are generally covered under Pennsylvania’s Corrupt Organizations Act. Under this Act, even a seemingly small offense such as retail theft comes with harsher penalties. Individuals convicted of retail theft that occurred as part of organized crime may face up to 20 years in prison as well as heavy fines.

The penalties for individuals convicted of retail theft are much less severe when they acted alone. Those convicted of a summary offense may only face up to 90 days in jail. Even when the charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, the maximum jail sentence is only a maximum of two years. Although that is still a long time to spend in jail, it is a much lighter sentence than one associated with organized crime.

Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help with Your Charges

Regardless of the type of retail theft charges you may be facing, our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim are here to help. We will use effective defenses to give you the best chances of getting your charges reduced, or having them dismissed. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.


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