Estimated $68 billion in stolen merchandise sold online to unsuspecting consumers

Organized retail thieves recruiting flash mobs to steal

ORLANDO, Fla. – Organized crime syndicates have launched a high-stakes assault on retailers across the country with the intent to sell the stolen property online, according to law enforcement and retail crime investigators.

Mike Combs, director of Organized Crime Investigations for Home Depot, told News 6 that the industry has seen a major surge in shoplifting over the past three years.

[TRENDING: Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

“If they can get rid of it on the marketplace somewhere, they will steal that,” Combs said. “I think the big change is that they’re going everywhere. They’re going after all the retailers.”

Retail crime has become a lucrative business for thieves from Florida to California.

State Attorney General Ashley Moody said 39 Florida counties have been targeted by retail crime rings.

Moody has launched a joint effort with law enforcement agencies called FORCE: The Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange.

Moody said the collected data will allow her office to” identify the larger scale criminal organizations going into our stores and stealing large amounts of merchandise.”

A recent report by the Retail Industry Leaders Association and Buy Safe America Coalition found that as much as $68.9 billion worth of products was stolen from retailers in 2019.

Investigators have traced the goods to online posts offering deep discounts on brand new items, many still in the original box.

Officer Chuck McPhilamy, of the Marietta Police Department in Georgia, said, “It is a widespread issue and it’s hitting every market.”

He said potential buyers should beware.

“Well, ask yourself if it’s brand new in the box and it’s worth $1,000 why wouldn’t they take it back to the store and get their (money back)?” McPhilamy said. “Why in the world would they sell it for less than that?”

Combs said investigators have confiscated items from stolen lumber to detergent to high-end power equipment.

Law enforcement agencies are asking people to report unusual sightings or posts to the new See Something Send Something App, a free tool that allows anyone to send videos or photos of suspicious scenes, which is directed to the proper law enforcement agencies.

If you spot an online post offering new merchandise at discounted prices, use the app or contact

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.