Home Depot Crime Ring Highlights Boom in Retail Theft

Home Depot cracked open a crime ring that has accounted for $3 million in stolen goods across its Florida locations.

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It’s like Breaking Bad, only real.

With help from authorities, Home Depot cracked open a crime ring that has accounted for $3 million in stolen goods across its Florida locations since 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported. At the center of that ring: a pastor.

Stolen Goods

Robert Dell ran a drug recovery program at a community church in St. Petersburg, Florida, but prosecutors say it was a front. Dell allegedly had the program’s members steal tools from Home Depot’s across the state and deliver them to his home. He would then “fence” the hot goods on eBay under the account Anointed Liquidator — a little on the nose, pastor. He’s now facing charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and dealing in stolen property.

While that all might sound a little wild, the story isn’t particularly unique:

  • From New York, to San Francisco, to Portland, Oregon, retailers in cities across the country have reported upticks in theft, and in many instances, they believe the shoplifting can be attributed to organized operations much like Dell’s. In 2021, theft resulted in roughly $100 billion in losses, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • Recently, Target announced it was closing nine stores in four states, citing theft and organized crime as the main concern. One of those stores was in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood. Target plans to open a new location in central Harlem, but that can mean a half-hour walk or 20-minute bus ride for anyone near the old location.

To Catch a Shoplifter: Cracking Home Depot’s organized crime ring resulted from a monthslong investigation involving internal security teams, local law enforcement, and state entities. Trying to stop in-progress thefts is a whole other story, risking bodily harm to staff and customers. Many stores have closed locations permanently or put huge swaths of inventory — not just razors and allergy meds — behind security glass. Rival Lowe’s is working on a radio technology that would make power tools essentially paper weights unless scanned and purchased. It’s a novel idea, but what’s to prevent the next hammer crime spree?