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Retail trade groups were unanimous in their praise of legislation introduced that would make organized retail theft a federal felony. The measure, known as the Organized Retail Crime Act of 2008 (H.R. 6491) was introduced yesterday by U.S. Reps. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) and Jim Jordan (R-OH).
"Organized retail crime is one of the most serious threats we face today," said John J. Motley III, s.v.p. of government and public affairs at the Food Marketing Institute. "These thieves steal more than $30 billion in merchandise a year. They endanger public health by adulterating products such as infant formula and medicines and selling them to unsuspecting consumers often through illegitimate retail outlets. Numerous stolen goods are fenced on Internet auction sites."
"Too often," added Motley, "the gang members who are apprehended are charged with petty shoplifting misdemeanors, and receive minimal fines, probation or jail time. Complicit wholesalers, flea market operators, pawn shops, and Internet auctioneers cannot be easily prosecuted. This legislation would help reduce the billions in retail store losses and, most important, protect the safety of American consumers."
"A significant portion of this bill deals with online fencing of stolen goods," noted NRF v.p. for loss prevention Joseph LaRocca, who pointed out that organized retail crime results in dollar losses bigger than robbery, larceny, burglary, and auto theft combined. "Online auctions and other markets on the Internet provide a Wild West environment where thieves can resell stolen property to customers on a national or even international level with virtually no questions asked."
National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and c.e.o. Steven C. Anderson said that laws must be modernized to protect businesses, including pharmacies, and consumers.
The trade associations, along with many other retailers, manufacturers, and industry organizations, are members of the Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime, which also expressed its approval of the measure.
The legislation would, for the first time, specifically recognize organized retail crime under the U.S. Criminal Code. It broadly defines the crime to cover the theft, transport, and resale of goods stolen by these criminals. The measure would also require Internet auctioneers to monitor high-volume online sellers, defined as those who generate at least $12,000 in sales over a 12-month period. Such sellers would have to provide contact information and a list of all transactions over the past three years. Further, the proposed law would require auctioneers to help investigate online sales in which there is a reasonable cause to believe the goods were acquired through organized retail crime.