Stratford Man Admits Role in Large-Scale Fencing Operation
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Patricia M. Ferrick, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, today announced that MATTHEW HARWOOD, 42, of Stratford, pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to charges stemming from his participation in a large-scale fencing operation.
According to court documents and statements made in court, between January 2012 and December 2014, HARWOOD participated in a conspiracy to purchase stolen property from “boosters,” who typically were shoplifters with opioid addictions, and then resell the property at online websites. HARWOOD and others instructed the boosters to steal certain items from retail stores such as Petco, Staples, Walmart, and Bed Bath & Beyond, and paid cash for the stolen items at approximately one-third of their retail price. At times, HARWOOD provided expenses for car rentals and spending money for overnight or out-of-state trips to steal products.
After receiving the stolen merchandise, HARWOOD and a co-conspirator stored the merchandise at multiple locations, including HARWOOD’s former residence in Durham, and business locations in North Haven. HARWOOD and his co-conspirator then sold the stolen products at online sites, including eBay and Amazon, usually in the names of family members and associates.
Through this scheme, retailers lost more than $3.9 million.
HARWOOD pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit the interstate transport of stolen property, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, and one count of interstate transport of stolen property, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.
In pleading guilty, HARWOOD also agreed to forfeit the house in Durham where he formerly resided, and two mutual fund accounts in his name.
HARWOOD has been released on a $100,000 bond since his arrest on July 15, 2016.
A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
This matter is being investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Connecticut State Police, United States Marshals Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Connecticut Department of Correction, Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney’s Office, and the New Haven, North Haven, Milford, West Haven, Wallingford, Hamden and Orange Police Departments.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David T. Huang and John T. Pierpont, Jr.