Members of a large-scale theft ring have been indicted by federal and state prosecutors for their roles in an organization whose operations crossed state lines and caused more than $10 million in losses to retailers, U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson and Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said.
This week, local, state and federal law enforcement arrested 24 defendants in and around Tulsa as part of Operation Booster Buster. Five defendants are still at large.
The United States Attorney’s Office and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office have charged a total of 29 defendants with participating in the large-scale retail theft ring organized in northeast Oklahoma.
“Organized retail crime is dear to the economic well-being of our communities. This alleged retail theft network is estimated to have caused retailers more than $10 million in losses,” said U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson. “A joint team of investigators have worked meticulously over the past few years to connect the evidence and present this case for prosecution. I am grateful for their professionalism and persistence.
“This investigation has been complex, difficult and time-consuming,” Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said. “These are serious crimes. Organized crime is on the rise across the country, and my office is committed to holding criminals accountable for their actions. I want to thank law enforcement officers and prosecutors at the state, local and federal for their work and partnership in this matter.
The charges were announced at a press conference on Thursday. US Attorney Johnson and Oklahoma Attorney General O’Connor were joined by Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Miller of Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Altemus Jr. of the IRS Criminal Investigation and Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Régalado.
Stores targeted include Reasor’s, Sprouts, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Walgreens, CVS, GNC and others.
For example, on September 4, 2019, the defendants Amber Clayson, Latoya Duhart and others reportedly purchased $1,329 worth of over-the-counter products, such as Flonase, Mucinex, Nexium, Zegerid and Allegra, at a Reasor’s in Jenks, Oklahoma.
According to the federal indictment and the state’s probable cause affidavit, the defendant linda summer led the circle of “boosters” who made $4.5 million from the sale of stolen merchandise and over-the-counter products to fencing organizations outside of Oklahoma. “Fences” then sold the stolen products through e-commerce sites, such as eBay and Amazon.
Normally, fences paid half market value for each item. Summer, in turn, paid the boosters half of his expected profit for each item they brought him. Financial payments for stolen products were normally made through PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App, and some payments were made with drugs.
Her boosters were given a detailed list of items to steal and the price she would pay for each. She further taught her ring reinforcement techniques, including box stuffing. Box stuffing occurs when criminals hide higher value items in boxes of lower value items and only pay for the lower value items.
Been and his team of boosters allegedly stole product from retailers in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas and Colorado. Been would pay the expenses of encores when traveling out of state. She would additionally pay the boosters’ bail upon her arrest so that they could continue boosting.
The boosters would then deliver the goods to pre-determined locations in Tulsa, Sand Springs and Cleveland, Oklahoma. Defendants Billy Osborne, Juston Osborne, Corey Fields and Amanda Johnson allegedly helped run the operation by storing stolen inventory at their residences or businesses and preparing the merchandise for bulk shipments to out-of-state fences. She also stored stolen goods in her residences, prepared inventories, coordinated payment, and shipped pallets of stolen items.
“Consumers and businesses incur a high price for thieves who commit theft and profit from selling their stolen goods to well-organized theft rings,” Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said. “Thieves should take note. Tulsa is not going to capitulate and allow criminals to disrupt commerce in our city. »
“These federal indictments are the result of tremendous work and collaboration by our trusted law enforcement partners,” said Christopher Miller, Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI Dallas. “It does not matter where these criminal networks operate and sell their illegally acquired assets. We will work tirelessly to ensure those involved are investigated and brought to justice.
The retail robbery ring investigation began in 2019 when an organized crime investigator from a pharmacy retailer shared information with Tulsa police detectives about mass robberies at their area premises. from Tulsa. Investigators linked multiple boosters in the Tulsa area to Been and his son, accused of state Curtis Leon Gann Jr.. They also noted that Been and Gann Jr. were allegedly selling over-the-counter drugs, as well as other commonly stolen items on their eBay accounts.
The Tulsa Police Department contacted lead investigator Constable Thomas Helm of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office. Once it was determined that crimes related to Been’s retail theft organization also occurred in surrounding states, a federal investigation was launched.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, Tulsa Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and IRS Criminal Investigations have joined forces to lead Operation Booster buster. Officers from the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office HSI Task Force also joined the investigation.
Homeland Security Investigations from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Tulsa Police Department, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office and the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office conducted the ‘investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard M. Cella and Reagan V. Reininger are pursuing the case on behalf of the federal government. Senior Deputy Attorney General Joy Thorp and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Dane Towery are pursuing the case on behalf of the State of Oklahoma.
*A “thrower” is someone who steals goods and merchandise, especially, but not limited to, over-the-counter from retail stores.
* A “closing” or “closing transaction” is a person, organization or entity that purchases or receives stolen goods and merchandise from boosters. The fence or fencing operation then resells the stolen goods and merchandise to third parties.
An indictment and other indictment documents are only an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court.