I Team 10 Investigation: Surveillance footage captures meat thefts, retailers on alert

Posted at: 12/06/2012 5:09 PM
Updated at: 12/06/2012 7:33 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

I Team 10 is looking into the growing trend of organized retail theft. No longer are shoplifters out for individual gain. Many thieves are now targeting stores for specific higher priced items they can re-sell which may be harder to trace.

In some of those cases, the thieves are grabbing items like laundry detergent, teeth whitening strips and prime cuts of meat.

Such was the case last week, when police in Wayne County caught two men with a car-load of stolen steaks and ribs.   

Surveillance footage of two men tells the story. They're in a grocery store in Wayne County to do a little shopping. They go directly to the meat aisle, filling their shopping cart with select cuts. But after nine minutes in the store, they walk out with no cart, no bags and no groceries.

Police, though, say the two men were in and out of at least three supermarkets along Route 31 when police in Macedon got suspicious and looked inside their parked car. There in plain view, the entire back seat was full of meat, $450 worth.

"It was all T-bones, T-bone steaks, strip steaks, rib eye steaks, high end sausages, Italian sausages, ribs -- big packs of ribs," said Macedon Police Officer Ed O'Konsky.

Using the labels, police tracked the meat to the Wegmans in Perinton, Breens in Palmyra, and Wal-Mart in Newark.

Arrested and charged with criminal possession of stolen property was one of the men in the surveillance video, 55-year old Richard Lupo of Auburn. Police say the man with him was also taken into custody on an outstanding warrant but will be charged in connection with the stolen meat thefts as well.

O'Konsky, studied the surveillance video and showed I-Team 10, pointing out how the meat appeared to be stashed under the second man's shirt.

He says it does not appear to be a simple case of shoplifting. Instead, he suspects it was part of a criminal enterprise and the meat was likely going to be fenced to someone else who had a buyer.

"Meat has a high end value," said O'Konsky. "If you steal the high stuff, they can go to, not city pawn shops, but they have an outlet for it, certain places in the city will buy meat."

And it's not just meats. Other expensive items like razor blades, detergent and baby formula are becoming popular targets and a growing problem.

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 96% of shop owners say their company has been the victim of organized retail crime in the past year. That's a record. And two out of three surveyed say they've seen an increase in the activity.

"As long as there's people that are willing to buy it and re-sell it, you're going to have a chain of these thefts going on," added O'Konsky.

The silver lining in that survey -- more companies this year believe law enforcement is aware of the severity of the problem.

The National Retail Federation, meantime, is pushing for federal legislation that would toughen sentencing for organized retail thefts.