News


FDLE arrests three for multi-state crime spree

 
For Immediate Release
November 25, 2019
             
ORLANDO, Fla.–FDLE Agents arrested three suspects charged with organized retail theft who are suspected of an elaborate scheme stealing thousands from retailers throughout the Southeast United States.  Agents believe the theft ring is responsible for more than 100 thefts in 23 Florida counties.  Two suspects remain at large today.
 
“Think about what these individuals could have achieved if they had spent half as much time thinking about being good, productive citizens instead of this elaborate scheme,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. “We will work to ensure they have a long time in a prison cell to get their priorities straight.”
“The level of planning and the sheer number of thefts committed by these criminals is striking, especially just before Black Friday,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.  “I appreciate the work by our agents and our partners at The Home Depot and Target for their support during the investigation.”
 
“Organized retail crime is a serious and growing problem for the retail industry,” said Director of Home Depot Investigations Mike Combs. “We’re grateful to partner with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to track this group and end their multi-state operation.”
 
The investigation began in May after FDLE was contacted by The Home Depot about a barcode switch scam.  Agents believe the suspects printed fraudulent UPC barcodes on adhesive stickers and then placed the false labels over UPC barcodes on more expensive products at The Home Depot and Target stores. 
 
Suspects printed UPC codes for $7.99 electrical outlets and placed them over barcodes for wireless smart dimmer switches costing $99.95 and home wi-fi systems costing $299.  They also printed UPC barcodes for $19.97 rotary tool accessory kits, using the fraudulent codes to purchase $199 smart thermostats. 
 
The investigation shows one suspect placed the false barcodes on the merchandise in store while another purchased the products.  Suspects routinely purchased dozens of items costing stores thousands of dollars in a single transaction. 
 
After the purchases, suspects mailed the items to another suspect who sold them online for large profits.  Agents say the thefts cost retailers more than $150,000 in Florida alone.
 
Suspects arrested or charged today are:
 
Usman Ali, 33, 12958 NW 23rd St., Pembroke Pines, FL, is charged with racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and grand theft, arrested on November 22, 2019, booked into the Broward County Jail.
Rand Clark, 58, 865 Cadogan Ave., Orlando, FL, charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, arrested September 17, 2019, in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, for a theft that occurred in a Home Depot store.
 
Gwendolyn Walker, 53, 8001 Stirrupwood Ct., Orlando, FL, charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, arrested on November 22, 2019, and booked into the Orange County Jail.
 
Harold Wilson, 62, address unknown at this time, charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, currently wanted for the charges stemming from this investigation.
 
Keith Conyers, 56, address unknown at this time, charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, currently wanted for the charges stemming from this investigation.
 
The Home Depot and Target loss prevention associates assisted with this investigation.  Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute this case.
 
For Further Information Contact:
Gretl Plessinger, Jessica Cary or Jeremy Burns
FDLE Office of Public Information
(850) 410-7001 ‚Äč