PORT ST. LUCIE Fla July 20 2011 — Tyler Hadley posted an invitation to a party on Facebook, then killed his parents with a hammer before as many as 60 people attended the gathering at his home on Granduer Avenue, according to police.
Early Sunday morning, Port St. Lucie police received an anonymous tip indicating a 17-year-old might have killed his parents and the bodies were in the home. Police went to the home about 4:20 a.m. Sunday.
There police found a hammer between the bodies of Mary Jo Hadley, 47, and 54-year-old Blake Hadley. Tyler Hadley, 17, was arrested late Sunday and charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
“It was a merciless killing. It was brutal and the Facebook invitation — a party to have your friends and 40 to 60 people come over — I think speaks for itself,” Port St. Lucie police Capt. Don Kryak said, standing at the scene Monday. “The blunt force trauma to the head and torso with a 22-inch framing hammer can effect a considerable amount of injury.”
Police believe Tyler Hadley acted alone, but officials don’t know a motive. The former St. Lucie West Centennial High School student made no incriminating statements.
Kryak said the Facebook party invitation was posted about 1:15 p.m. or 1:30 p.m. Saturday — before the homicides occurred. Investigators suspect Tyler Hadley’s mother was killed first, and then his father, and that the slayings happened outside the master bedroom door of the single-story home in the 300 block of Northeast Granduer Avenue.
Items including books, files and towels covered the bodies, and the hammer was found between them.
When police arrived, Tyler Hadley greeted them.
“He was nervous … just very nervous when we arrived to do the welfare check,” Kryak said. “He just said that his parents were out of town.”
Blake Hadley was an employee of Florida Power & Light Co. and worked at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, according to Doug Andrews, FPL spokesman.
“Our prayers are with the Hadley family at this time,” Andrews said.
Maurice Hadley of Stuart, Blake Hadley’s father, said his son — who he described as a gentle giant at 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 300 pounds — was weeks away from celebrating 30 years of employment with FPL.
“He enjoyed his job,” Maurice Hadley said. “He was a watch engineer.”
Mark Ankrom, Blake Hadley’s nephew, said, “He was a good man, a very good man.” Not a mean bone in his body and I just can’t believe something like this would happen.”
Mary Jo Hadley worked 24 years as an elementary school teacher with the St. Lucie County School District, with her last six years being at Village Green Environmental Studies School. Maurice Hadley described her as “the best daughter-in-law you could have.”
“The St. Lucie County School District family is deeply saddened at the tragic loss of one of our valued colleagues,” the district said in an emailed statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
Kryak said an older brother of Tyler Hadley moved out a couple of months ago.
The Hadleys had attended a family reunion in Georgia earlier this month, Maurice Hadley said.
“It was a time for us to enjoy family from Indiana, Minnesota and Florida,” he said. “I didn’t see any indication there were any problems between Tyler and his parents. We’re still in disbelief and we’re still waiting to learn more.”
The couple lived in their residence on Northeast Granduer Avenue for at least the past 10 years.
“I’ve known Mary Jo since she was in high school in Fort Lauderdale. They are a nice family. The kids are always nice. They used to come to our house trick-or-treating and they always called me Miss Charlie,” said Charlene Moses, a family friend.
The relationship Tyler Hadley had with his parents and the family dynamics were unclear.
“That’s certainly something we want to dive into a little bit more and get a better understanding of what actually takes place in the house,” Kryak said.
Neighbor Raeann Wallace, 64, said Tyler Hadley was “always a good kid,” but said she hadn’t seen him for about a year.
“I used to see him getting off the bus and walking home, and a couple of times we’d go on vacation, I’d say, ‘Hey Tyler, watch my house, don’t let anybody bother my house,’” Wallace said. “Then all of a sudden, I just never saw him anymore.”
Wallace said the Hadleys had lived next door since before Tyler Hadley was born.
Police went to the home early Sunday morning for a noise complaint, but there was no reason for police to enter the home, said Officer Tom Nichols, police spokesman. The party apparently was winding up at the time.
A guest at the party, Mike Young, told WPTV NewsChannel 5 he does not know Tyler Hadley well. “There was a good 50 people that were here (Saturday) night,” he said.
Police went to the home again about 4:20 a.m. after the anonymous tip indicating a 17-year-old might have killed his parents and the bodies were in the home.
Nichols said Tyler Hadley as of Monday afternoon was at the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center on Bell Avenue in Fort Pierce.
Kryak asked that anyone who attended the party call police at 772-871-5000.
Keymo Tubias Martin Jr. was arrested Monday night by the regional Warrant Apprehension Task Force and charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder for his role in the shooting, which occurred July 14 in the 2800 block of Matthews St, in the Better Waverly community.
A 32-year-old female security guard, who was shot in the eye, has been released from a hospital but is expected to require additional surgeries related to her injuries. The 38-year-old male victim, who was shot in the chest, remains hospitalized, police said.
Patch.com reported today that the female officer’s 9 mm handgun was stolen after she was shot, and the attack is listed as an armed robbery in police records.
Police are still searching for a second suspect, described as being a black male in his 20s, 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-9, of light complexion with short hair and average build. He is considered armed and dangerous, police say.
Anyone with information was asked to call the Northern District Detective Unit at 410-367-3105.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Manatee County sheriff’s deputies claim that, in May and June, Margaret Carter Schoenberg, 36, of the 2000 block of Hawthorne Street in Sarasota, recorded $346 in refunds for merchandise customers did not actually return and pocketed the money.
Schoenberg, who was arrested Tuesday afternoon and has since been released from jail, reportedly made a written confession.
Raleigh, N.C. July 20 2011— A Durham woman was charged Friday with trying to steal nearly $1,200 worth of items from a store at Crabtree Valley Mall store in Raleigh.
An arrest warrant states that Crystal Nicole Williams, 32, of 2327 Lindmont Ave., took clothing, shoes and electronics from the Sears store in the mall.
Williams was charged with felony larceny, placed in the Wake County jail and given an $8,000 secured bond. Her first court appearance was set for Monday.
Williams has 26 convictions dating to 2006, including numerous counts of larceny, identity theft, credit card fraud and shoplifting, according to state Department of Correction records.
She has served two five-month jail sentences and was most recently released last October.
Portage County OH July 20 2011 A substitute teacher with the Aurora School District was arrested Monday, accused of having a romantic, sexual relationship with one of her students.
According to Portage County Sheriff David Doak, Mary Schnell, 24, of Aurora, was indicted on two counts of sexual battery, both of which are third degree felonies.
An investigation conducted by the Aurora Police Department, the Streetsboro Police Department and the Portage County Sheriff’s Detective Bureau determined that the victim was a 16-year-old male and the alleged misconduct took place in Mantua Twp., Portage County.
Schnell was arraigned with a bond of 10% of $50,000 and as of Monday afternoon was free on bond.
Jeremie Stefan, 33, and Eric Erosa, 36, were indicted by a Rockingham County grand jury for allegedly stealing or attempting to steal high-priced items such as Dell desktop computers and Dyson vacuum cleaners.
In one instance, Stefan walked out of a Walmart store in Portsmouth with a 47-inch LCD high-definition television, indictments say.
The duo was first nabbed by Salem police on March 3 when Officer Michael Ghea noticed that Stefan and Erosa were about to enter a South Broadway pawn shop with what looked like an unopened computer, according to police.
Ghea stopped the men and soon learned that the computer was stolen from Best Buy, which was less than a half-mile away, police said.
Both men were arrested on a charge of receiving stolen property, but county prosecutors say the alleged thefts didn’t stop there.
According to the indictments, the men are also accused of hitting the Target store in Greenland and Walmart stores in Newington and Portsmouth during a three-week period, making off with hundreds of dollars in valuables in each heist.
Sometimes, the heists weren’t always successful, court documents indicate.
Stefan is facing six counts of theft by unauthorized taking and five counts of attempted theft by unauthorized taking for allegedly stealing items from Kohl’s department store in Newington, a Target store in Greenland and Walmarts in Newington and Portsmouth, indictments say.
Those charges stem from thefts or attempted thefts between March 15 and April 1.
Erosa was indicted on three counts of theft by unauthorized taking and a misdemeanor operating after suspension for allegedly taking two desktop computers and a Sony LCD TV from Walmart in Newington between March 19 and 23, indictments say.
Both men are being held at the Rockingham County jail.
FAIRHAVEN MA July 20 2011— More than $10,000 in stolen merchandise was recovered and three men and a woman were arrested Thursday night after an alleged shoplifting spree at Kmart and a subsequent chase, police said.
Facing various charges in connection with the incident are Eshone Williams, 31, Ryan Persue, 28, and Justin Blake, 28, all of Worcester, and Cheyanne Skelton, 20, of Las Vegas, police said.
According to a news release, at approximately 6:15 p.m. Thursday, police responded to Kmart after receiving a report that a male was fleeing from the store after shoplifting some merchandise.
The suspect, later identified as Williams, ran across Route 6 and entered a red Nissan Altima in the 7-Eleven parking lot, police said, adding that the vehicle was driven by a woman, later identified as Skelton.
Officer Stephen Gwozdz spotted the car at the intersection of Alden Road and Bridge Street. He activated his emergency lights and the vehicle stopped in front of the Southern Mass Credit Union, before abruptly taking off, continuing north on Alden Road for about a quarter of a mile, police said.
At one point, the car slowed and the man ran from the vehicle, fleeing into the wooded area behind the former Massachusetts Lottery building, police said. Gwozdz pursued and eventually captured the man, identified as Williams, without incident, police said.
While Gwozdz was pursuing Williams, the car he jumped out of turned and fled south on Alden Road, where Officer Marc Darmofal saw it near the intersection of Alden Road and Bridge Street. He stopped the vehicle and placed the driver, subsequently identified as Skelton, under arrest.
In conducting an inventory of the contents of the vehicle, officers found more than $10,000 worth of merchandise in the trunk. Items included cellular telephones, gift cards, MP3 players, high-end cameras, glucose test strips, jewelry, clothing and other assorted electronic and medical supplies, police said.
Williams — who police said has 19 different aliases — was charged with shoplifting, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, receiving stolen property valued at over $250 and furnishing a false name to police. Skelton was charged with receiving stolen property valued at over $250, failing to stop for police, marked lanes violations and operating a motor vehicle so as to endanger.
Officers David Correia and Daniel Dorgan later arrested two other men in connection with the case. Persue and Blake were charged with shoplifting, police said.
All four suspects were scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Third District Court. Additional information was not available.
MYRTLE BEACH, SC July 20 2011 – One man is in jail after Myrtle Beach Police received a tip from a Pennsylvania state trooper that an alleged burglary suspect was living in the Myrtle Beach area.
Authorities approached the suspect, James Charles Meininger, Saturday night at Froggy Bottomz nightclub at Broadway at the Beach, where he worked as a bouncer. He is now in police custody and is awaiting extradition back to Pennsylvania.
“It definitely makes me think twice about going there,” says Jordan Sherer, who is visiting Myrtle Beach from Greenville. “I don’t want to go to a bar where somebody could have who knows what kind of record.”
Froggy Bottomz is operated by Celebrations, who also owns three other Broadway at the Beach nightspots. They say they always perform background checks on their employees, but did not know about this warrant.
“If a business runs a criminal background check, and something happens after that, then the employer won’t see that at all,” says attorney Kirk Truslow. He says background checks are generally pretty thorough, and any type of criminal record is easily accessible.
And while Meininger sits in jail, there’s a catch. If Pennsylvania authorities don’t get to Myrtle Beach in an allotted amount of time, police here can no longer detain Meininger. Kirk says this does happen on occasion, because extradition can be expensive. But in this case, he believes police will come.
“If they’re actively searching for him in South Carolina, common sense would tell you they want him. They want to bring him back,” explains Kirk.
Augusta GA july 20 2011 Officials in Georgia confirmed Mooresville developer Dr. Thomas Wilson was the pilot and sole occupant of a single-engine plane that crashed at Augusta Regional Airport Monday afternoon.
The Mooney M20K went down around 12:30 p.m. Augusta Regional Airport spokesperson Diane Johnston said the small plane was taking off the airport’s main runway when it crashed on a secondary runway. Witnesses reported an explosion and fire.
Wilson was a traveling emergency room physician by trade, but was well-known in the Mooresville area as developer of the Lake Norman Airpark. Wilson purchased the small airport and surrounding land in 1990, and used it to create a public-private partnership airfield with a neighborhood of runway-adjacent properties attached.
“He managed to buy the property, did all the development himself, all the plans for the development, sold a lot of the lots himself,” explained current neighborhood association president Phil Kouwe. “I don’t know that he ever grabbed a shovel, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it.”
A person who answered the door at Thomas Wilson Properties, headquartered at the airport, declined to comment Monday.
Kouwe and other neighbors said Wilson was a familiar face at the airport, and flew almost daily. “It wasn’t unusual to hear him rip out of here at 4 o’clock in the morning, 5 o’clock in the morning. You always knew who it was because you could tell from the sound of the airplane that it was Tom, and he was on his way to work,” he said.
It is unclear why Wilson was in Georgia, but the Augusta Chronicle newspaper reported he often worked at a nearby hospital.
There are also reports that Wilson may have come to retrieve the plane he’d crashed in Augusta this spring. The NTSB confirmed Monday that Wilson had piloted that same plane onto the runway at Augusta in April after a long night of weather trouble, and forgot to lower his landing gear. The wreck badly damaged the plane.
According to reports, aviation crews on the scene said that Wilson had reported landing gear problems just before the plane went down Monday.
In this most recent suit, filed last week in federal court, employee Karen Jackson claims security officers have engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior as well. Jackson is a supervisor who is still employed at the library.
Another employee, a library assistant, filed a previous lawsuit against the library. Both employees went through the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) process and were found to have the right to sue in this case.
In a six page lawsuit, Jackson lays out 33 claims of why her job at the downtown Birmingham library is a sexually hostile work environment. Her claims include:
-that patrons are routinely allowed to view pornography on library computers, often in the presence of children
-that patrons regularly engage in offensive sexual conduct such as masturbation in the presence of children
-that management has failed to address the matter
Jackson’s lawyer, Adam Morel, is the attorney for both employees suing the library. Morel says each of his clients filed no less than 10 complaints with their supervisors before feeling the matter was not being addressed. He said Jackson alleges that not only has the inappropriate behavior been talking place, but also that security at the library is “woefully inadequate.”
Morel points to statement taken during deposition during which one manager said “I agree that is happening to them,” and another statement, in which managers are accused of telling employees with concerns, “If you don’t like it, leave.”
Morel says both women understand that working in any downtown space, they may be subjected to some “unsavory stuff.”
“But the problem is, the law requires employers, in this case, the city and the library, to take reasonable steps to protect its employees against this stuff and they have not done that,” Morel said.
Mayor Bell declined to comment on Tuesday about the lawsuits, saying that the cases are pending. Councilman Johnathan Austin also declined, but did say he will call for an audit of all the city-owned technology to make sure the latest safeguards are in place to prevent the viewing of lewd material.
“But what we can address is technology, and how we make sure that if there is a problem we solve it, and how we prevent things like this from happening,” Austin said.
Morel’s clients are still moving forward with their lawsuits against the library.
“What they’re looking for first and foremost is for the library to be cleaned up, to go to their jobs and work in an area free of this pollution,” Morel said.
STAMFORD CT July 20 2011 — A man and woman from Brooklyn, N.Y., were arrested after police say they tried to steal more than $2,000 worth of clothes from Macy’s on Monday night.
Police say the suspects were using a magnetic device to remove the security tags from items they tried to carry out of the store.
Adina Ciara Brown, 33, and Seinkeia John, 28, were charged with third-degree burglary and conspiracy to commit third-degree burglary. They were held in lieu of a $2,500 court appearance bond.
Stamford police Capt. William Mullin said that Macy’s store security began watching the suspects on the surveillance system after the two raised suspicions.
At one point, after making the rounds through the store and choosing items they wanted, Brown was seen going into a changing room while John sat outside acting as a lookout, Mullin said.
There in the room, security told police, she used a magnetic device to strip the items of their security tags.
Store security found the tags from $2,085 worth of clothing in a bag stuffed into the pocket of some shorts that Brown left in the changing room when she walked out, Mullin said.
Indianapolis IN July 20 2011 An Indiana man was arrested yesterday after he was caught masturbating in a stall inside the women’s room of a Walmart in Indianapolis.
The suspect, Brandon Jelks, was first spotted by female shoppers who heard moans “and sounds of someone” masturbating emanating from the stall. One witness went into the adjoining stall to look under the divider, and reported seeing “a pair of blue patterned boxers around the ankles of what appeared to be a man’s shoes.”
An off-duty cop working security at the store was then summoned. When the cop confronted a startled Jelks, 20, as he exited the stall (“with his pants unzipped”), he claimed to have accidentally gone into the wrong bathroom. Jelks was handcuffed and brought to the loss prevention office where a search turned up two boxes of condoms that had been shoplifted from the store, according to an Indianapolis Police Department report.
Jelks explained that he had used two of the condoms while pleasuring himself in the women’s bathroom. While being detained, he also reportedly told a Walmart official that he “had a sex problem” and went into the bathroom “to look at the women” while masturbating. While he was doing this, Jelks noted, he was looking at pornography on his cell phone.
The multitasking pervert–who explained that he “needed” to spy on the bathroom occupants to “arouse” himself–was charged with indecent exposure and criminal trespass. Jelks was booked into the Marion County jail, where he remains in custody.
MILILANI Hawaii July 20 2011 (HawaiiNewsNow) – Friends and fellow church members have identified the man killed in an early morning crash on the H2 Freeway as Timothy Leyes, 58, of Wahiawa. Police said he was driving North in the South-bound lanes shortly before 4:30 a.m. when his Hyundai SUV slammed head on into a Toyota SUV.
Leyes, a security guard for Securitas, was pronounced dead at the scene. A 47-year old woman driving the Toyota was taken to a hospital in critical condition. A third vehicle, a Honda sedan driven by a 44-year old woman, hit the concrete median while trying to avoid the original collision. She was transported to a hospital in good condition.
Police are investigating circumstances surrounding the crash, but as of Monday afternoon said they did not know how or where Leyes got onto the freeway traveling in the wrong direction. There is speculation he entered the South-bound lanes headed North by driving the wrong way down the South-bound Ka Uka Boulevard exit.
Playwright Lisa Matsumoto was the last person killed on Oahu driving the wrong way on a freeway. In 2007 she crashed while traveling East in the West-bound lanes of the H1. Matsumoto’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
Police are waiting for the Honolulu Medical Examiner to tell them if Leyes had alcohol or drugs in his system when he crashed.
“He could have been super tired. I hear he was a security guard. He could have been getting off work so tired and just wasn’t paying attention to where he goes,” said Mililani resident Traci May when asked to comment on the collision.
“Maybe the lighting and if you are not too familiar with the roadways, I can see where somebody would probably get messed up and go down the wrong way,” added Mililani resident Russell Fortner.
People who knew Leyes tell Hawaii News Now he was a good man, a good worker, and very responsible.
DENVER CO July 20 2011 — A man died while being subdued by police at the Denver Zoo after a violent clash with officers and zoo security guards on Monday, police said.
The incident began about 5 p.m. when two security guards tried to intervene in a domestic violence conflict between the man and a woman outside the elephant house, said Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson.
Suddenly, the man was fighting and biting the security guards, Jackson said. Police were called.
The man also assaulted and bit arriving officers, he said.
The AirTracker7 helicopter camera showed officers restraining the man on the ground. A couple of women and a child stood nearby watching.
Officers were able to subdue the man, Jackson said, but “a short time later, he stopped breathing. Officers immediately started CPR on the suspect.”
Jackson could not confirm reports that police used a Taser stun gun to subdue the man.
Paramedics arrived and transported the man to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead just after 6 p.m., Jackson said.
The Denver coroner will conduct an autopsy to determine how the man died, Jackson said. The man’s name was not released.
Two security guards suffered minor injuries, Jackson said. One was treated at a hospital, the other was treated at the scene.
Two police officers were treated for minor injuries at the scene, he added.
AirTracker7 showed 17 patrol cars and a fire engine responded to the zoo.
The violent confrontation stunned people who had been enjoying a sunny afternoon at the zoo.
“All of a sudden we’re walking around and there was cops,” Jhoselyne Canales told 7NEWS.
“It’s kind of scary, actually. Scary, because you don’t know whose going to go crazy or what’s going to happen,” she said.
Another zoo visitor, Dan Frederick, said: “It’s not every day you see this, 17 (police) cars. That’s what I counted.”
“They had the police line roped off, and there was an ambulance over there,” he said.
Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal responded to the zoo, along with police detectives and crime-scene investigators, Jackson said.
“I was called out to the scene of an in-custody death, and I’m monitoring it now,” Rosenthal said.
Mikala M. Hairston, age 31, was charged with two counts of possession of marijuana, first offense, and one count of attempted delivery of drugs to a confined prisoner.
Authorities said Hairston tried to enter the visitation area of the jail Saturday with a small bag of marijuana concealed inside her purse. A subsequent search of her vehicle resulted in the discovery of an additional, larger bag of marijuana, authorities said.
Hairston was later released on a $500 bond.
Source:richmond times daily
COSTA MESA CA July 20 2011– Authorities have identified a security guard who was shot in a car in a school parking lot Saturday night, saying the Costa Mesa man is stable.
An unidentified man shot Wilfren Banejas-Rodriguez, 26, several times while he was sitting in the driver’s seat of his Ford Expedition in the parking lot of Paularino Elementary School in the 1000 block of Paularino Avenue about 11 p.m., a Costa Mesa Police Department news release said.
Banejas-Rodriguez was wearing a security guard uniform as he was on the way to work and is believed to have stopped in the school parking lot to meet briefly with a friend, police said.
The gunman approached the driver’s side door of Banejas-Rodriguez’s vehicle, police said, and shot him in the left arm, torso and left shoulder before fleeing.
Banejas-Rodriguez was taken to a hospital with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.
Police described the shooter as a man in his 20s or 30s wearing black clothing and a hooded sweat shirt drawn around his face.
Authorities say the shooting is not believed to be gang-related, with Banejas-Rodriguez having no known gang associations.
Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call detective Mike Delgadillo at 714-754-5197 or detective Sgt. Ed Everett at 714-754-5395.
Charlotte NC July 20 2011 A former teacher at a Mint Hill charter school has been charged after he allegedly met several times with a 14-year-old girl during the middle of the night.
The girl, a former student of the suspect, was not having a sexual relationship with her ex-teacher, according to Mint Hill police.
Investigators say Kyle Doherty, 28, of Charlotte, was charged with four counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was arrested last Thursday, but police say the overnight meetings date back to last December.
According to police, Doherty told them he was trying to counsel the girl. He formerly taught middle school grades at Queens Grant Charter School.
The case developed when Mint Hill police received a call about 4 a.m. July 7 about a vehicle break-in on Stoxmeade Drive, in a neighborhood across from Independence High School. While patrolling the area, police say, they found Doherty’s vehicle in the area, and they found Doherty a short time later.
Police say Doherty told them he was meeting with the 14-year-old to counsel her. Police say Doherty was not involved in the vehicle break-in.
Later that day, police say, they met with the girl’s parents, and they determined the 14-year-old was leaving her house in the early-morning hours without permission.
Police say Doherty was charged because of his role in the girl’s decision to leave the house. Each charge is connected with one of their meetings.
National Heritage Academies, which manages Queens Grant Charter School issued a statement about the case, saying, “Mr. Doherty was employed for one year as a middle school teacher. He gave notice of resignation prior to the end of the school year. Given that this is currently a matter for law enforcement, we are unable to provide additinal information regarding this issue at this time.”
Union Township NJ July 20 2011 A Union Township resident was arrested July 9 for allegedly shoplifting from Lord and Taylor.
Police reports indicate that Elvis O. Tull, 40, was stopped by the department store’s loss prevention officers as he attempted to exit the store with merchandise he concealed in his clothing. The loss prevention officers started escorting Tull to the store’s loss prevention office when he fled.
The police report that Tull was able to exit the store and flee the property in his vehicle. He was then pulled over by police while driving and arrested. He was processed and released.
The items that Tull is alleged to have stolen have not been revealed.
MIDDLETOWN NJ July 20 2011 — A pair of New Jersey women have been charged with using stolen credit cards to buy merchandise valued at more than $1,500.
Jessica Taylor, 21, and Cynthia J. Fregoni, 26, both of Kendall Park, were charged Wednesday with access device fraud, criminal conspiracy, forgery, theft by deception and receiving stolen property, according to court documents filed with District Judge John J. Kelly Jr.
Police say the two allegedly stole a wallet from a woman in South Brunswick in March and then used her credit cards to make purchases at Macy’s, Express and Foot Locker, all in the Oxford Valley Mall, and T.J. Maxx and Home Goods in the Lincoln Plaza Shopping Center.
When making the purchases, they allegedly signed the victim’s name, police said.
Both women have criminal histories, with theft and credit card fraud arrests in California, police said. Fregoni called the victim and admitted she and Taylor used the credit cards, according to court documents.
Kelly arraigned both and released Fregoni on $20,000 unsecured bail and Taylor on $25,000 unsecured bond.
Federal Way police are part of a growing statewide effort to reduce shoplifting by secret crime rings.
Though difficult to quantify, the National Retail Federation estimates that annual losses from organized retail crime are as high as $30 billion. More than 95 percent of retailers are victims.
Criminal enterprises hire “boosters” to steal everything from baby formula, diapers, Oil of Olay, shampoo, razors, high-end clothing, electronics, steaks and seafood, just to name a few. The loot is sold for pennies on the dollar – with the costs of theft ultimately absorbed by consumers.
Organized retail crime centers on common consumables such as baby and hygiene products. The stolen items are sold from car trunks or in backyards, flea markets, swap meets and mom-and-pop shops. Auction websites such as eBay are havens for stolen merchandise. Other criminals return stolen goods to retailers for a fraudulent refund, or perhaps buy the stuff with stolen credit cards. A recent report from the Washington Retail Association involved a King County couple who recruited a few dozen drug addicts to steal from stores, with the items either resold or shipped to Cambodia.
A handful of state laws apply to organized retail crime that specify the value and frequency of theft. Many of these thieves target multiple retail outlets, often in the same day, along the Interstate 5 corridor.
In Washington, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors take organized retail crime seriously.
The estimated annual loss to retailers is $77 million, according to Tacoma police officer Scott Stanley. He started the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance in November 2010 while looking into theft reports at the Tacoma Mall. Both police and retailers have since gotten involved. Today, the alliance’s database boasts 402 registered users from 81 cities in nine states (several retailers have headquarters located outside Washington).
Since the launch of the alliance website in May, there have been five different arrests related to organized retail crime, Stanley said. The website alerts retailers through both email and smartphones to potential thieves. Stanley described a recent incident in which a suspect was seen stealing in Macy’s at Tacoma Mall. After Macy’s issued an alert regarding the thief, a loss prevention officer at nearby Nordstrom spotted the suspect. Police were able to make an arrest.
“Here in our region, grocery stores are getting destroyed by steak thieves” who sell the loot to mom and pop grocery and convenience stores, Stanley said. “The number one most stolen item from mall stores is Levi’s jeans.”
For several years, Federal Way officer Gordon Morikawa regularly busted shoplifters at Top Food and Drug. A former manager would call Morikawa’s cellphone whenever a shoplifter was on the premises. Most suspects swiped candy, food or beer, he said. Morikawa would also encounter so-called professional shoplifters who likely delivered their bounty to a middleman known as a fence. These middlemen pay pennies on the dollar for the stolen merchandise, then sell it. The stolen items commonly included household supplies and hygiene products. Thieves also target grocery stores for steaks, then sell the meat to restaurants.
“We had a guy dumpster diving in Top Foods, retrieving all this meat that had been thrown out. … God only knows where it ended up,” Morikawa recalled. “There’s a market for it. We have to surmise that he’s selling it somewhere.”
Tenants at The Commons Mall in Federal Way – including major retailers like Sears, Macy’s and Target – report fewer losses due to organized thievery, said Federal Way police officer Chris Norman. He credits the constant police presence as well as building relationships with loss prevention officers at the mall’s stores.
The police department has a contract with the mall for the additional officers, said Norman, adding that arrests and investigations for theft have increased. Law enforcement in the region also communicate with one another on potential tips. While scrolling through messages on his phone, Norman finds a bulletin for a 30-year-old woman trying to steal $300 in shampoo and hair products from a Safeway store in Edmonds. He believes most thieves seek money to buy drugs like heroin or oxycontin.
This type of police presence and awareness is appreciated by local retailers.
“The moment people out here see a police officer, they leave. They don’t want to play games,” said the manager for another retail store at The Commons Mall in Federal Way, who asked that his name not be used due to corporate rules for speaking to the media. The manager said his store’s losses last year were the lowest he has seen. He credits police presence at the mall, along with active customer service and trustworthy employees, for being a solid deterrent.
“The police have a great presence,” the manager said. “That helps us out.”