Houman Fakhimi

Orange County Spotlighted for Organized Retail Theft

Orange County has been singled out as one of the top locations in the country for organized retail theft - in the nation.

Orange County Trial Attorney Houman Fakhimi knows that we're not talking about the average shoplifter - and law enforcement authorities are more frequently treating this like a much more serious crime.

The L.A. Times, reporting on a recent survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, discovered that a huge majority - 96 percent - of retailers said they were victims of theft over the last year. That was an increase from the year before, when it was 94.5 percent. The uptick is being blamed on the worsening economy.

But what's different about this type of crime is the sophistication. In many cases, groups or gangs of individuals work together to carry out mass theft. Rather than nickel-and-diming these stores with one-off hits, these individuals have been able to steal thousands of dollars worth of merchandise at a time, which is then later either sold or returned back to the store for its cash value.

There is little discrimination as to what those items might be. In some cases, it's baby formula and diapers. In other cases, clothing, laundry detergent or razors - or just about anything you can think of that has value and can be quickly and easily resold, with little ability to retrace it.

Los Angeles and Orange County were ranked among the top in the country for this. Other cities with high rates included Dallas, Miami, Chicago, Houston, Chicago, San Francisco and Phoenix.

These acts are often carried out by one person creating a diversion, distracting store staff, so that one or more of the others can make off with the merchandise.

Another method is to pull trucks up to cargo distribution centers. This is actually more common than you might think. More than half of all stores said they had been ripped off this way.

A typical shoplifting offense under California Penal code 484, 487 and 488 is going to depend on how much was taken. Generally, you're looking at a charge of misdemeanor petty theft for anything under $950, and a felony for anything above that. A simple misdemeanor is going to mean up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 (unless you have a prior offense, in which case it's a maximum of a year). If it's a felony, you could face up to 16 months in prison, or three years if you have priors.

That's typically enough to deter most people, but you also want to consider when you are a part of organized crime, particularly in collusion with gang members, under California Penal Code 186.22, you could be looking at a gang enhancement of an additional five years or more.

Other states, such as Colorado, have been exploring enhanced penalties specifically related to mass retail theft.

Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are charged with a crime. Protecting your rights and setting up an aggressive defense at the beginning stages is critical in defending against criminal charges.