|TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a Hudson County man was sentenced to prison today for leading an organized retail theft ring 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, was sentenced to four years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Robert J. Gilson in Morris County. Suarez pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 to second-degree shoplifting. The charge was 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 prosecuted the case and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
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 other ring members pleaded guilty in October and were sentenced to jail.
“Organized retail theft is a multi-billion dollar epidemic for retailers across the United States,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “The prison sentence imposed on this defendant demonstrates our resolve to treat this offense like the serious crime that it is, using the enhanced penalties provided under New Jersey law.”
“By working with retailers and other law enforcement agencies to identify and investigate the criminal groups that are repeatedly targeting retailers, we can take what otherwise might be isolated shoplifting cases, handled in municipal court, and instead build a strong organized retail theft case, as we did here,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to pursue this type of prosecution against these criminal enterprises.”
The following three men each pleaded guilty to third-degree shoplifting and were sentenced to jail in November by Judge Gilson:
- David Pulgarin, 29, formerly of Union City and West New York, was sentenced on Nov. 16 to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of three years of probation;
- Julio Duque Barahona, 30, was also sentenced on Nov. 16 to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of three years of probation.
- Javier Duque Piza, 56, formerly of West New York, was sentenced on Nov. 30 to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of two years of probation; and
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 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 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 James Mottola, 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.