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Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office breaks up organized retail crime ring

'There will be consequences, you can count on it,' Sheriff Ric Bradshaw says
Posted at 6:15 PM, Oct 26, 2023

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is providing more details on an organized retail crime ring WPTV reported on Tuesday.

Fourteen people were arrested and charged Thursday, accused of either shoplifting or selling stolen goods.

Big name brands like Walgreens, Publix, Winn-Dixie and others joined Sheriff Ric Bradshaw in a press conference Thursday as the sheriff showed a 200-page stack of evidence gathered during the course of the nine month investigation.

"For those of you that can remember, this is as big as a phone book," Bradshaw said of the probable cause affidavit.

Palm Beach County Detective Christopher Apple said suspects known as "boosters" would shoplift items such as over-the-counter medicines, electronics, beauty items and more.

He said boosters would then sell the items to "fences," or people who re-sell the goods to "second level fences."

Apple said second level fences sell the goods on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon to unsuspecting customers.

"People like us, like you and me," Apple said.

Tuesday, one of the people charged with re-selling the goods, Joshua Markell, appeared in court for the first time. His attorney told a judge in court Markell didn't know the goods were stolen when he sold them.

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"If somebody shows up with 30 items that are the same, don't you think they ought to say, 'Well, what are you doing with those thirty items?” said Bradshaw.

Representatives from Publix, Walgreens, Home Depot, Lowe's, Winn-Dixie, Walmart, WaWa and Dicks Sporting Goods stood with Bradshaw at the podium to take a stand against retail theft.

Deputies said they recovered $1.2 million of stolen merchandise and Attorney General Ashley Moody's Office said retailers have lost close to $20 million statewide.

"When you get this volume of people stealing from stores, then retailers have to raise the price on things you buy," Bradshaw said.

Shoppers told WPTV it's frustrating knowing there's one more thing adding to the cost at the checkout.

"Everything is going up, inflation is crazy," Justin Lindsey said.

“Things I used to pay 99 cents for, now it’s $2," added Elaine McCoy-Vassell. “I didn’t even think of this or consider this being a factor. I would hope they would get a lid on this to get things in reverse."

Bradshaw said recently passed Florida legislation, which strengthens the penalties against those who commit retail theft, along with strong enforcement from his agency, helps curb the crime.

"There will be consequences, you can count on it," Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw also said the use of the department's AXON body cameras, which can live-stream crime and related evidence in real time, was instrumental in bringing the investigation to a close.