Posted on April 05, 2024 in Criminal Defense

In recent years, “organized retail crime” has been an area of concern for businesses and police agencies throughout the United States. This form of theft usually involves coordinated efforts by multiple people to steal from stores and resell stolen merchandise, often on the internet. The state of Wisconsin has taken steps to address this crime, and people who are accused of organized retail theft may face felony charges, even in situations involving small amounts of money or property. Following an arrest for retail theft or other related crimes, it is crucial to have representation from an experienced attorney who can help determine the best defense strategy for your case.

Defining Organized Retail Crime

Organized retail crime (ORC) involves two or more people who work together to steal retail merchandise in large amounts. This offense is often more serious than shoplifting, since it may involve complex operations in which stolen goods are sold through online marketplaces or other methods.

How Serious is Organized Retail Crime?

The rise of ORC has prompted retailers and law enforcement agencies in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin to adopt more rigorous strategies to combat these crimes. Because the people who commit these crimes often move between cities and counties and work together to steal from many places at once, these crimes can be complex to prosecute and police and prosecutors often go after people accused of ORC as hard as they can.

Organized retail crime may take a number of forms, including:

  • Flash theft: This form of shoplifting, which is also known as a “smash and grab attack,” involves multiple people entering a store at the same time, taking as much stuff as they can carry, and leaving quickly. When large groups of people engage in these activities, store owners and police officers will be less likely to be able to prevent theft.
  • Cargo theft: Merchandise may be stolen while it is being shipped or unloaded from trucks. Depending on where the theft happens, the crime may be classified as retail theft, or other charges may apply, such as robbery.
  • Return fraud: Return fraud happens when stolen items are returned to stores and exchanged for other merchandise. Stolen electronics may be purposely damaged, or components may be removed and resold, and then they may be returned or exchanged.

Penalties for Organized Retail Theft

In Wisconsin, the penalties for retail theft can vary significantly, depending on the value of the stolen merchandise and the circumstances of the crime. In general, retail theft of merchandise valued at less than $500 is a Class A misdemeanor offense, and theft of more than $500 is a felony. However, in cases involving ORC, felony charges may apply even if the stolen merchandise is worth less than $500. If a person works together with someone else to commit retail theft and intends to resell the stolen merchandise over the internet, everyone involved in the crime may be charged with a Class I felony.

In some cases, other charges may also apply. A person may be charged with racketeering if they commit, or plan to commit, at least three incidents of retail theft or related crimes involving the same accomplices, the same victim(s), or similar activities. Racketeering is a Class E felony.

Contact a Milwaukee, WI Organized Retail Theft Defense Attorney

Criminal charges related to organized retail crime can be very serious, and those who are convicted of these offenses may face lengthy prison sentences and large fines and restitution. At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP, our Milwaukee organized retail crime defense lawyers understand Wisconsin’s laws related to retail theft, organized retail crime, racketeering, and other similar charges.

Contact us today at 414-271-1440 to set up a consultation and learn how we can help you.