Operator of Pawn Shop Case Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud Conspiracy in Connection with the Sale of Stolen Merchandise
Baltimore, Maryland - Scott Bradford, age 49, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the sale of stolen merchandise through Fast Money, the pawn shop he operated.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Postal Inspector in Charge Daniel S. Cortez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation.
According to his plea agreement, from 2007 to March 2010, Bradford and others, operated Fast Money, a pawn shop located at 3529 S. Hanover Street in Brooklyn, Maryland. Scott Bradford had no ownership interest in Fast Money, but was primarily involved in the business’s day-to-day operations. Scott Bradford admitted that he and others were involved in the purchase and sale of mass quantities of stolen over-the-counter medications, health and beauty aid products, gift cards, DVDs, tools, and other merchandise. Scott Bradford and others purchased large amounts of stolen items from shoplifters, also known as “boosters.” The boosters would steal products from Target, Safeway, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, and other retailers in Maryland and other states.
During this investigation, law enforcement officers observed boosters bringing in large bags full of stolen material to Fast Money, sometimes several times a day. The stolen items often had retail security labels and merchandise tags still on the products. Several witnesses took stolen merchandise directly to Scott Bradford and others at Fast Money. In addition, on March 17, 2010, an undercover detective conducted a controlled sale of a DeWalt power tool at Fast Money. The undercover had never been introduced by anyone into the shop and therefore went in unsolicited. The DeWalt power tool had a “spider wrap” security sensor around the entire box that was prominently displayed. This security system is often used by retailers to prevent thefts. The undercover sold the product to Scott Bradford, who accepted the merchandise even with the spider security wrap.
Scott Bradford had others use a heat gun and lighter fluid to remove the security labels from the stolen medications, tools, and other items. Once the items were “cleaned” and the security labels removed, Scott Bradford and others would sell the stolen items over the Internet using an eBay account. At one point, eBay closed the Bradford account. In response, Scott Bradford and others used other eBay accounts to continue their activities. After the transactions were completed, Scott Bradford and others used PayPal to collect payments and to wire funds to their bank accounts. Scott Bradford and others sold over $2.8 million in stolen items using eBay and PayPal. Scott Bradford made additional money with eBay and PayPal websites using nominee names and bank accounts, after eBay closed their account.
On March 25, 2010, agents from the United States Postal Inspection Service, Baltimore County Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed search warrants at Fast Money and the pawn and buy/sell shops in this case. Agents recovered in total well over $1 million in stolen merchandise, approximately $1 million in bank accounts, and over $140,000 in cash from these shops.
Between $1 million and $2.5 million in stolen merchandise was reasonably foreseeable to defendant Scott Bradford during the conspiracy.
Scott Bradford faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg has scheduled sentencing for February 2, 2012, at 2:00 p.m.
Fifteen defendants have pleaded guilty to the money laundering conspiracy to date.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Baltimore County Police Department; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Baltimore Police Department; and Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation for their work in this investigation and commended Assistant United States Attorneys Sujit Raman and Joyce K. McDonald, who are prosecuting the case.