Following an interstate investigation into a “grab-and-go” theft scheme, a 24-year-old Windsor, Connecticut, man has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
The case was part of “Operation American Steal,” a multiagency investigation into multiple grab-and-go thefts at fashion stores in the Northeast. The term refers to incidents where several perpetrators enter a store, take as many articles of clothing and merchandise that they can carry, exit the store without paying and leave in a waiting getaway vehicle.
Jahlil Parrott was sentenced on May 20 by U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford to 30 months imprisonment. His sentencing also calls for three years of supervised release for taking part in an extensive commercial larceny spree. The news was announced by U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut Vanessa Roberts Avery.
The investigation involved officials in different states including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and police departments in Hartford, New Canaan, Wrentham, Massachusetts, and Auburn, Massachusetts, as well as some in Nassau County. Assistant U.S. attorneys Margaret Donovan and Brendan Keefe prosecuted the case.
Parrott, who is also known as “Stretch,” was part of a network that committed more than 50 grab-and-go thefts in 2019 and 2020. The thieves struck outposts for Polo Ralph Lauren, T.J. Maxx, Balenciaga, Burberry, Macy’s, Marshalls, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Tommy Hilfiger, Sephora and other retailers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. They then transported the stolen merchandise to Connecticut and sold the items on the internet and on the street. The impacted retailers faced combined losses of more than $100,000 during the scheme, according to Avery’s office.
The sentencing brings to light an issue that has been impacting retailers for several years. Organized retail crime thefts cost retailers an average of $720,000 for every $1 billion in sales as of 2020, representing an increase from $450,000 five years prior, according to the National Retail Foundation.
In the past year, viral videos and increased media attention of grab-and-go thefts at such stores as Louis Vuitton and Nordstrom in different parts of the country have made the public more aware of ORC. In a 2021 survey conducted by NRF, 69 percent of retailers reported an upswing in ORC incidents. Less prosecution of crimes perceived as “victimless,” increased felony thresholds, new opportunities for theft that emerged during the pandemic, and the growth of online marketplaces, were cited as reasons for the increase. The NRF has noted how the losses increase costs for retailers, and in turn for consumers, with the stolen items ranging from low-cost items to designer clothing.
The NRF has appealed to Congress for some time to give law enforcement funding and other resources to offset ORC. The Integrity, Notification, Fairness in Online Retail Marketplace for Consumers Act would require online marketplaces to verify the identities of high-volume third-party sellers. Currently being debated, that legislation is meant to make it more challenging to fence stolen merchandise online and to try to curtail the sale of counterfeit goods. Late last month the National Fraternal Order of Police sent a letter to Congress earlier this month urging them to support the INFORM Act.
Parrott was involved with at least 34 thefts that led to losses of more than $98,000, according to a statement from Avery’s office. During one of the thefts, he bit a loss prevention officer, who had apprehended him as he tried to steal some of the goods, the statement said. Operation American Steal also highlights some of the various ways that thieves prosper from shoplifting and ORC.
One of the others involved with the interstate crimes was 20-year-old Sharnice Jackson, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in relation to a scheme to defraud Victoria’s Secret stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts. According to court documents and statements, Jackson and others stole thousands of dollars from the retailer’s parent company L Brands. They did so by shoplifting Victoria’s Secret merchandise and returning the goods without receipts to obtain gifts cards in the amount of the goods that were stolen. They later redeemed the gift cards for merchandise that was of slightly greater value and charged the excess amount to a debit card that was connected to a co-conspirator. They then returned the merchandise purchased and received a full refund credited to the co-conspirator’s debit card.
After a grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Parrott and seven others, Parrott was apprehended in November 2020. Last December, he plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport and possess stolen property. Parrott has been detained since August of 2021.
His seven co-defendants were previously sentenced after pleading guilty.
A spokesman for the U.S. state attorney’s office in Connecticut declined comment, regarding whether the investigation may set a precedence for other or serve as a deterrent to criminals.
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