March 7th, 2016 - Organized Retail Crime
The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, Vestavia Hills Police Department, and Birmingham Police Department have spent several weeks investigating an Organized Retail Crime ring operating throughout Jefferson County. During this investigation, dubbed Operation Molten Iron, an estimated $55,000 worth of retail merchandise was stolen from local retail stores or provided for controlled sales. To combat the theft ring, law enforcement worked with organized retail crime investigators from CVS, Home Depot, Publix, Target, Walgreen's and Wal-Mart. The retailers donated merchandise and personnel in order to support the operation.
The goal of Operation Molten Iron was to identify those responsible for theft of merchandise at the retail level, and to discover the destination of the stolen merchandise and the identity of individuals in the business of purchasing the stolen goods. Retailers donated merchandise so that law enforcement could conduct controlled sales in furtherance of the investigation.
During Operation Molten Iron, Officers and Agents spread out over numerous locations in Jefferson County and recovered vehicles and merchandise valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Three suspects wanted in these cases were apprehended and several more are being sought. At one location, officers also found approximately 15 pounds of Marijuana.
Organized Retail Crime costs $30 Billion annually and affects 97% of retailers in the United States. This investigation alone uncovered that one individual is suspected to be responsible for the theft of approximately $1 Million worth of property each year for over a decade, and that the property was fenced to several individuals over that time. Alabama’s lost tax revenue due to this individual would be over $100,000 annually.
At this time, law enforcement has limited tools to combat Organized Retail Crime. One subject investigated during Operation Molten Iron cannot be charged under Alabama's current criminal laws, but could be charged if Alabama had the same organized crime laws that exist in surrounding states. Fortunately, there is legislation pending in Montgomery to enact a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) law to fight ORC as well as other organized crime. That legislation, SB234, gives law enforcement the ability to dismantle the organizational structure of the criminal enterprises operating in Alabama. We encourage everyone who is concerned about organized crime in Alabama to contact their local legislator and request passage of the RICO bill in order to give law enforcement the necessary tools to fight organized crime.
The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office would like to thank all of the law enforcement officers and the retailers involved in Operation Molten Iron for the cooperation and collaboration which has made this operation possible.
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