Retail theft ring that targeted Lowe’s convicted

Two members of a retail theft ring charged with stealing more than $100,000 worth of merchandise from Lowe’s stores in five western states were convicted of multiple felony counts by a federal jury in the western district of Washington State. 

Leonard Hollingsworth and Larsell Hollingsworth were found guilty on all counts of the indictment, including 15 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Case. The men will be sentenced on May 11, 2012.

Seven members of the conspiracy were originally charged, but five pled guilty prior to trial and most will be sentenced later this year.

According to court records and testimony at trial, members of the conspiracy would steal items, such as expensive faucets, from Lowe's stores by placing them in large boxes for sinks or toilets. The conspirators would leave the store paying only the lower price for the sink or toilet. Later on, the shoplifters would return the stolen items to different Lowe's stores throughout Arizona, Oregon, California, Oklahoma and Washington in exchange for gift cards. Members of the conspiracy then sold the gift cards for cash.

The theft ring caused more than $100,000 in losses to Lowe's. In order to return Lowe's items without a receipt, the conspirators used altered drivers licenses -- changing one letter in the name and license number -- so that the stores’ fraud detection systems would not be triggered with the multiple returns. However Lowe's security was able to detect the activities of the ring and worked with the U.S. Secret Service and King County Sheriff's Office detectives to investigate their activities.

The jury deliberated four hours before returning their verdict.