Damian Alexander Gasdaska, 36, of Phillipsburg, N.J., was sentenced in Montgomery County Court to 15 months to four years in a state correctional facility after he pleaded guilty to charges of organized retail theft and conspiracy to commit retail theft in connection with the fraud ring that used fake UPC labels and operated between February and July 2011.
“This was indeed a sophisticated operation and he was at the center of it, was the brains behind it,” said Judge Thomas C. Branca, adding a state prison sentence was warranted. “Unfortunately, he’s used his education and his smarts in the wrong way. He’s had the ability to be successful and a law-abiding citizen and he’s not done that.”
The judge ordered Gasdaska to pay $21,260 restitution to Target. Gasdaska, testimony revealed, has forfeited a 2005 Mercedes sedan to help pay restitution. Target stores that were victims of the thieves included those in Pottstown, Plymouth Meeting and Cheltenham in Montgomery County; Exeter, Muhlenberg and Wyomissing in Berks County; Malvern in Chester County; and Springfield in Delaware County.
Two others linked to the fraud ring, including Eugene Joseph Romano, 34, of Center Valley, Lehigh County, are still awaiting court action on similar charges.
With the charges, authorities allege the thieves used fake UPC, or Universal Product Code, labels to purchase items at well below their actual cost, and then sold the items for profit on eBay.
At the time of the arrests, authorities estimated that since 2008, the operation collected more than $172,000 in revenue by selling the stolen items on eBay. Prosecutors said the thieves were not living extravagant lifestyles but were using the money to support their daily lives.
Deputy District Attorney Steven Latzer sought state prison time against Gasdaska, arguing he had not learned a lesson from previous run-ins with the law and jail and probationary stints for crimes such as retail theft.
“This case is all about greed, the defendant’s greed,” said Latzer. “This was an ongoing, intentional, sophisticated ring. It’s time to put this one-man crime spree out of business for good
Defense lawyer Michael Quinn sought a county jail sentence with work release for Gasdaska, arguing his client is remorseful, has a newborn child and wants to turn his life around. Gasdaska, Quinn said, was able to thrive academically and graduate from college despite a “horrendous upbringing,” and was one of “the most capable, young men” he’s ever represented.
“He’s a very bright guy. I think all of the men in America will agree or submit that part of our personality is wrapped up in our ability to provide for our family,” Quinn said. “And when his prior contacts with the law precluded him from doing that he took an alternative path and he used this to supplement his income because he wanted to give his family things that he could not otherwise give under his salary.”
Gasdaska pleaded with the judge not to warehouse him in prison.
“My actions were bad and were done in poor judgment. I made some very poor decisions to try to supplement my income. I don’t want to see my future destroyed,” Gasdaska said.
Quinn said Gasdaska is “disappointed” with the outcome and Quinn is considering filing papers asking the judge to reconsider the sentence.
“Don’t worry,” Gasdaska said to his weeping wife as he was handcuffed by sheriff’s deputies and escorted from the courtroom to begin his prison stint.
Cheltenham detectives began the investigation after Target loss prevention officials reported their suspicions about the scheme after observing Gasdaska in the Cheltenham store on Shoppers Lane, court papers indicate.
Authorities uncovered 46 individual retail thefts from Target stores in the 11 counties between February and July 2012, according to the arrest affidavit filed by Cheltenham Detective Daniel M. Schaefer. Stores in Lehigh, Bucks, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Luzerne, Northampton and Philadelphia counties were also hit by the scheme, according to court papers.
The men allegedly created UPC labels that identified certain merchandise for sale at Target stores. Gasdaska and his conspirators visited the stores and secretly affixed those UPC labels to much higher-priced Target merchandise from the same brands, causing the cashier and cash register to unknowingly “under-ring” each item, allowing them to purchase the merchandise at a small fraction of the actual retail price, authorities said.
At the Exeter, Wyomissing, Cheltenham and Plymouth Meeting stores, the thieves purchased a $549 Dyson vacuum cleaner for $109 by using fake UPC labels, according to court papers. At stores in Pottstown, Malvern and Springfield, the thieves purchased Medela breast pumps, which normally sold for about $280, for about $35, according to the criminal complaint.
After purchasing the items, the men then created fraudulent eBay accounts to sell the items online to the unsuspecting public at a lower than retail price but much higher than the price that they paid, authorities alleged.
Gasdaska and his alleged accomplices used false and stolen identities to carry out their scheme while hiding their true identities, authorities alleged. Gasdaska was able to transfer the sales revenues to an online account and then to a personal bank account which also were opened using fraudulent information, authorities said.
During the investigation, authorities obtained video surveillance that depicted Gasdaska and his alleged accomplices carrying out the scheme.
Source- Daily Times
VIRGINIA BEACH VA April 26 2012 - Four men, three from North Carolina, are charged with robbing a Va. Beach motel.
Police were called to the Sundial Motel on 21st Street around 1:00 a.m. Tuesday after two men wearing masks demanded money from the desk clerk.
Witnesses heard a gunshot and saw two men running towards 20th Street and Arctic Avenue.
An officer in the area noticed a car circling in the area and followed it, making a traffic stop on I-264. The driver and passenger were taken into custody, but the officer didn’t know there were two other men hiding in the back seat, according to investigators.
Those two got into the front and drove off, eventually crashing into a sign at General Booth Boulevard and Rudee Inlet. The men bailed – one went into the water but was found. The fourth suspect was caught by K9 and was treated for minor injuries from the dog bite.
Darius Antonio Casey, 21, from Emporia is charged with Armed Robbery, Use of a Firearm, Wearing a Mask, Conspiracy, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon and Shooting into an Occupied Dwelling.
Maurice Davon Sneed, 24, of Roanoke Rapids, NC is charged with Armed Robbery, Use of a Firearm, Wearing a Mask, Conspiracy and Felony Eluding Police.
Leroy Harris, 25, of Garysburg, NC is charged with Armed Robbery, Use of a Firearm and Conspiracy.
Jaquan Rashee Cheek, 22,of Roanoke Rapids, NC is charged with Armed Robbery, Use of a Firearm and Conspiracy.