Apparently, big bucks can be made selling stolen printer ink cartridges online.
A dozen suspects are accused of pulling in more than US$12 million by selling the stolen cartridges and retail electronics on Amazon and eBay, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Wednesday.
Sixty-four-year-old Richard Rimbaugh allegedly led the operation for more than 20 years by recruiting people to steal the goods from retail stores across 28 states.
Rimbaugh and his "theft crews" allegedly went out each week to steal new merchandise, which also included computer software, Schneiderman said.
The operation was tightly organized. Members were given detailed maps of retail stores, such as Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy, along with custom-made vests to help them shoplift the stolen goods.
In addition, special electronic devices were used to deactivate the alarms at store exits and to eavesdrop on security staff.
To catalog and ship the stolen merchandise, Rimbaugh created a company called American Media Soft that he ran out of his New York City apartment, Schneiderman alleged. The company appears to have received good reviews on Amazon and eBay from thousands of users.
Rimbaugh then paid his crew members between 30 to 50 percent of a stolen product’s retail value. He would also issue credit cards to his associates to cover travel expenses such as flights, car rentals, and hotels.
U.S. police have confiscated more than 5,300 stolen electronic devices and ink cartridges, along with $7.7 million from the suspects' homes and financial accounts. New York's attorney general is calling the indictments one of the biggest busts of a retail theft ring.
The suspects have been charged with enterprise corruption, money laundering, and criminal possession of stolen goods. Each defendant can face between eight to 25 years in prison if found guilty.