Who doesn’t love finding a good deal? If you’re buying incredible bargains online, you may be supporting a crime ring and not even know it. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek has tonight’s 7 Investigates.

To call it brazen would be an understatement. For the past few years, flash mobs of burglars have swarmed stores in the blink of an eye.

Cellphone video: “You going to jail.”

And thieves, even when acting alone, have swiped hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise in just mere moments.

Kevin Ozebek: “Do you like the challenge of trying to find these people?”

Detective Raymond Ketchmark, Fort Lauderdale Police Department: “Yeah, absolutely.”

Detective Raymond Ketchmark with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department specializes in retail crime. He says cases are surging because the thieves are making big money.

Detective Raymond Ketchmark: “What we’ve noticed is a lot of these products end up on like a Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up, Letgo.”

Kevin Ozebek: “So instead of selling this in the back of a trunk, they’re being sold online?”

Detective Raymond Ketchmark: “That’s exactly what it is.”

And one of the favorite targets of these retail crime rings is The Home Depot.

Mike Combs, The Home Depot Director of Asset Protection: “On a daily basis in every store, we’re having some type of organized retail crime.”

Mike Combs is the Director of Asset Protection for The Home Depot. He, along with police departments across the country, are uncovering homes and storage units loaded with stolen power tools.

These look like shelves in an actual store, but this is a California warehouse fully stocked with items stolen from The Home Depot.

Mike Combs: “The problem is not the basic penny shoplifting. We’re talking about people that are stealing large amounts and making a living off of it.”

Mike also tracks the stolen tools, as they end up on the most popular online marketplaces.

Mike Combs: “It’s like the wild, wild west. You know, everything goes online.”

They’re often sold for a fraction of what they’re worth.

Detective Raymond Ketchmark: “If it’s obviously much cheaper going through that website than it is buying it from the retailer, then it’s a pretty good sign that it’s probably stolen merchandise.”

Retail crime is now so prolific, thieves steal around $70 billion worth of items a year. It may lead to bargain basement prices if you click on the right link, but buying stolen goods comes with a cost.

Detective Raymond Ketchmark: “If they’re putting in more claims for these types of losses, obviously on the back end it’s going to cause the price of the items to go up substantially.”

One of Detective Ketchmark’s priorities now is tracking down this young man and woman. Earlier this year, a Fort Lauderdale officer spotted them leaving the Sephora inside the Galleria Mall.

Officer: “Grab her.”

She dropped her bag and bolted.

Officer: “Sit down.”

He then darted away too. This time, they did not get away with the thousands of dollars worth of fragrances they tried to steal, but six days earlier, they did.

Detective Raymond Ketchmark: “Because they need to be held accountable.”

Held accountable for a crime that’s now plaguing America.

Kevin Ozebek, 7News.   

If you recognize those two retail thieves Fort Lauderdale Police are trying to track down, call Broward County Crimestoppers. The number is 954-493-TIPS.


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