Customers help break up Oregon shoplifting ring

A group of Home Depot customers in Beaverton, Ore., helped authorities solve a dozen shoplifting cases involving close to $500,000 in stolen merchandise from a variety of businesses, according to an article in the Portland Tribune.

Police said that three suspects were taken into custody on Dec. 26 after shoppers reported two men wheeling a shopping cart full of merchandise through an emergency exit door at the Beaverton store around 11:30 a.m. After watching the men load the goods into a waiting utility trailer, the witnesses took down a description of the car -- a black Toyota 4-Runner -- before it drove away.

Officers soon stopped the vehicle and trailer and detained the three men. Inside they found more than $1,200 worth of Home Depot merchandise and returned it to the business, according to the report.

Upon further investigation, police learned that the men may have been involved in dozens of similar thefts. Authorities found storage lockers full of items, including tools and equipment from construction sites, appliances from new residential construction projects, two ski boats, three enclosed utility trailers, a 24-ft. recreational vehicle, and computers and equipment from local businesses and restaurants. The estimated total of the stolen merchandise was $484,441.

Arrested and charged with first-degree theft were 34-year-old William George Hazelwood III, a transient; 45-year-old Michael O’Sullivan of Beaverton; and 35-year-old Charles Daniel Smith of Tualatin.