United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
Leaders Of $100,000+ Retail Theft Ring Convicted After Six Day Trial
Conspirators Stole High Value Items from Lowe’s Stores and Returned Items for Gift Cards
Members of a retail theft ring that used altered drivers’ licenses in their fraud, were convicted today of 16 federal felonies following a six day jury trial, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Jurors deliberated for about four hours before finding LEONARD HOLLINGSWORTH and LARSELL HOLLINGSWORTH guilty on all counts of the indictment including 15 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The men will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik on May 11, 2012.
Seven members of the conspiracy were originally charged. Five pleaded guilty prior to trial and most will be sentenced later this year. According to records in the case 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. In the ensuing weeks, members of the conspiracy 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 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 case was being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Aravind Swaminathan and Lawrence Lincoln.