DELAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Monday afternoon that eighteen suspects were behind bars — and there were the warrants for the arrest of five more — after investigators busted a racketeering operation.
Investigators say the suspects were involved in a scheme to rip off big box stores — such as Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us — by shoplifting, returning stolen merchandise for gift cards, and pawning the gift cards for cash. Johnson said the suspects would shoplift “anything they could get their hands on. It went from panties to door hinges.”
According to authorities the suspects stole $4 million worth of merchandise in a 9-month period.
"These people, their job is stealing and pawning these cards. That's their occupation. This person made $86,000. $86,000 stealing,” Johnson said pointing to one of the suspects on a board full of mug shots.
The gift cards were allegedly purchased by two Cash for Gift Card businesses in Deltona and Daytona Beach.
The businesses turned around and sold the gift cards for a total of $2 million, Johnson said.
According to the sheriff’s office the father and son who run those businesses are among the suspects now behind bars.
Bondi said the crime against the retailers affects everyday shoppers.
“They're having to raise prices because of their losses and that's going back to our consumers, especially during the holiday season,” Bondi said.