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Attorney General Bonta Hosts Convening on Organized Retail Theft – Brings Together Law Enforcement, Retailers and Online Marketplaces

Discussion focused on collaboration to prevent retail theft, target organized rings, and address stolen goods pipeline

LOS ANGELES – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today hosted a convening with representatives from big-box retailers, online platforms, and law enforcement to discuss the state of organized retail theft in California and develop strategies for combating this criminal activity head on. Representatives from the California Retailer's Association, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Amazon, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, CVS, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, the California Highway Patrol’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force, the California State Sheriffs' Association, and the California Police Chiefs Association took part in the collaborative effort.

“The coordinated criminal activity we’ve seen in retail stores and online through the resale of stolen goods isn’t shoplifting or petty crime, it’s organized crime, and it’s going to take an organized strategy to put a stop to it,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Here at the Department of Justice we are doing our part to help organize that strategy. My office and the other stakeholders have committed to coordinating our efforts and sharing intelligence in order to arrest and hold bad actors to account while proactively stopping future crime. We will do our part to ensure our communities feel safe, and protect from organized crime the workers, businesses, and consumers who drive our economy.”

California and states across the country have seen a pattern of organized retail crime. These “flash mob thefts” are not one-offs; these are well-planned, coordinated efforts that have hurt businesses, while putting retail workers and shoppers in danger. According to a 2020 national survey, U.S. retailers lose approximately $700,000 per every $1 billion in sales to organized retail crime.

This illicit activity doesn’t stop at the “smash and grabs” seen in stores. In many cases, groups re-sell their stolen goods in online marketplaces and use the money to fund other violent illicit activity, including human trafficking and organized crime.  

This month, Attorney General Bonta announced the sentencing of a group involved in a scheme to resell goods stolen from Bay Area retailers. During a search and arrest warrant operation in September 2020, law enforcement seized and recovered approximately $8 million of stolen merchandise from retailers such as CVS, Target, and Walgreens, as well as $85,000 in U.S. currency from the defendants’ warehouse, residences, and storage facilities. Each of the five defendants pleaded guilty to various felony charges, including conspiracy to commit organized retail theft, receiving stolen property, money laundering, and a special allegation for aggravated white collar crime enhancement over $500,000.

During today’s convening, retailers and law enforcement shared best practices for proactively combating these crimes, while identifying areas for improved detection, investigation, and collaboration. Retailers shared the struggles and successes they have had with providing law enforcement with the information necessary to arrest and prosecute those involved in this organized crime. Online platforms provided insight about their work to detect illicit goods sold on their sites, as well as the obstacles they’ve faced.