|TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a man pleaded guilty today in connection with an organized retail theft ring that he led that targeted approximately 70 Home Depot stores, primarily in New Jersey, but also in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
Julio Arriola Suarez, 49, of West New York, aka Jimmy R. Alcivar, pleaded guilty today to a second-degree shoplifting charge before Superior Court Judge Robert J. Gilson. The charge is graded as a second-degree crime under New Jersey law because Suarez admitted that he committed thefts totaling more than $1,000 in merchandise as part of an organized retail theft enterprise. Deputy Attorney General Michael J. Rappa took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Suarez be sentenced to four years in state prison. Judge Gilson scheduled sentencing for Suarez for Dec. 14.
Suarez was arrested on April 3, 2012 in Jersey City. An investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the United States Secret Service, conducted with assistance from the Home Depot Corporation, determined that Suarez led a ring that committed thefts at multiple Home Depot stores per day, stealing hundreds of dollars in merchandise by “under-ringing” it through self-checkout areas. Three additional members of the ring pleaded guilty earlier this month and face jail time.
“This ringleader pleaded guilty under a state law that provides for a substantial prison term for shoplifting if over $1,000 in merchandise is stolen by an organized retail theft enterprise,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “We’ll continue to make strong use of this criminal statute and related provisions aimed at organized retail theft in order to address this growing problem, which retailers estimate costs them $15 billion to $30 billion annually across the U.S.”
“We’ll continue to partner with other law enforcement agencies and retailers to dismantle retail theft rings and successfully prosecute their members,” said Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “These investigations often depend heavily on store records and personnel, so we count on strong cooperation from the industry, as exemplified by Home Depot in this case.”
The following three men each pleaded guilty to third-degree shoplifting before Judge Gilson earlier this month. The state will recommend that each man be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a period of probation.
David Pulgarin, 29, formerly of Union City and West New York, pleaded guilty on Oct. 9;
Javier Duque Piza, 56, formerly of West New York, pleaded guilty on Oct. 9; and
Julio Duque Barahona, 30, recently in prison in New York State, pleaded guilty on Oct. 10.
Pulgarin is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 2, and Piza and Barahona, on Nov. 16.
A fifth man who was charged in April in the investigation, Nicolas Arriola Cortez, 49, formerly of Union City, remains a fugitive and is being sought on a warrant.
The ring members, who are from Central and South America, were based in Hudson County, N.J. Pulgarin is a naturalized U.S. citizen, but the others are not U.S. citizens. Suarez, Piza and Barahona could potentially face deportation on the charges. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had previously filed a detainer against Barahona in connection with a drug conviction in New York State.
The investigation revealed that the ring members typically struck numerous Home Depot stores and stole hundreds of dollars in merchandise each day. The ring members allegedly stole items that were relatively expensive from the Home Depot stores by going through the self-checkout areas and not properly scanning the items. They allegedly would use various tactics to hide their “under-ringing” activity in the self-checkout area from security cameras and any employee assigned to the area. In some instances, a second ring member would distract the store employee.
The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Rappa and Detective Sgt. Louis Matirko. Attorney General Chiesa thanked the United States Secret Service Newark Field Office, under the supervision of Special Agent in Charge Jacob Christine, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Newark, under the supervision of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McLees.
Attorney General Chiesa also thanked the Central Investigation Team of Home Depot Corporation, which provided valuable assistance throughout the investigation, as well as the following law enforcement agencies: West New York Police Department, Dover Police Department (Morris County, N.J.), Union Township Police Department, Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, Whitehall (Pa.) Police Department and Lehigh County (Pa.) District Attorney’s Office.