Ringleader in Pawn Shop Case Pleads Guilty to Laundering $20 Million in Proceeds from Sale of Stolen Merchandise
Baltimore, Maryland - Jerome Ira Stal, age 41, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
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 Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation.
According to his plea agreement, from 2007 to March 2010, Stal conspired with others to conduct monetary transactions involving the sale of mass quantities of stolen over-the-counter medications, health and beauty aid products, gift cards, DVDs, tools and other merchandise. Shoplifters, also known as “boosters,” stole products from Target, Safeway, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and other retailers in Maryland and other states. Pawn shops bought large amounts of stolen items from the boosters. Stal received stolen products at his warehouse, TS Liquidators in Baltimore. The stolen items were “cleaned,” meaning that the security labels and retail tags from the stolen products were removed. Sometimes a heat gun and lighter fluid would be used to peel away the plastic security labels. Stal worked with co-defendants to purchase and transport stolen material. Stal paid a co-defendant approximately $1.8 million for his stolen materials and obtained additional stolen materials from others. Stal and others also had on-line auctions sites, such as eBay and Amazon.com, where they would sell the stolen products far below normal retail value. The stolen products were then delivered to unsuspecting customers via the U.S. mail. The defendants received payment back by interstate wire transfers using PayPal accounts and through various financial institutions in Maryland.
On March 25, 2010, agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Baltimore County Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed search warrants at TS Liquidators and the pawn and buy/sell shops in this case. Agents recovered well over $1 million in stolen merchandise, approximately $1 million in bank accounts and over $140,000 in cash. During the conspiracy, approximately $20 million in stolen merchandise was reasonably foreseeable to Stal.
Stal faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg has scheduled sentencing for March 18, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.
Eleven 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 Kwame J. Manley and Richard Kay, who are prosecuting the case.