Polk County Sheriff’s Office Organized Retail Crime Detectives, working with the Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, developed five suspects — all from Georgia — during an investigation that started in August of 2019 at the Auburndale Walmart where three men were conducting suspicious merchandise returns.
Two suspects have been arrested, one suspect died of natural causes, and two suspects are at large — both of whom have warrants for their arrest. There are three additional suspects that investigators are attempting to identify.
The investigation relates to an organized group of suspects defrauding the retailer Walmart by conducting fraudulent refunds and selling stolen merchandise for profit. The investigation revealed the suspects operated in at least 13 different states through the United States in a seven month time span. Within the State of Florida, it was determined the suspects included in this investigation affected 18 judicial circuits and 39 different counties.
The investigation shows the criminal organization has been operating since at least the year 2014. Working with Walmart investigators, records show losses to the retailer during the time of this investigation, between August 15, 2019, and ending March 24, 2020, including approximately 600 fraudulent transactions that resulted in a loss of about $300,000.
It was determined that of these losses, $174,542.45 was stolen from Walmart stores located in Florida. Four verified thefts occurred within the jurisdictional boundaries of Polk County on August 31, 2019, which totaled a loss of $3,552.00.
Based on evidence showing the suspects have been operating and selling televisions since at least 2014, it is estimated the suspects have stolen approximately $3.6 million from retailers.