Lincoln County Businessman Indicted For His Role In A Multi-million Organized Retail Theft Scheme
United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins Western District Of North Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Steve Hale, 64, and owner of Double D Distributing, LLC, formerly based in Denver, N.C., has been indicted on conspiracy to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce, interstate transportation of stolen property and related charges, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. The indictment remained under seal until today, following Hale’s arrest yesterday afternoon.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Russell F. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Charlotte Field Division; Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI); Chief James W. Buie of Gaston County Police Department; and Chief Stacy Conley, of the Gastonia Police Department.
The federal charges against Hale are the result of “Operation Cash Back,” an investigation that began in September 2010 into the buying and selling of stolen over-the-counter (OTC) non-prescription drug and health and beauty aid (HBA) products. Six defendants have been sentenced to date in connection with Operation Cash Back. Bonnie Bridges, Kimberley Morris, Michael Morris, Darlene Schoener, William Schoener, and Darryl Brock were sentenced in January 2013 to prison terms ranging from 18 to 86 months. The amount of stolen property involved in the Bridges case from 2006 to 2011 exceeded $16 million.
The 30-count federal criminal indictment against Hale was returned by a grand jury sitting in Charlotte on October 17, 2013. According to allegations contained in the indictment, from 2006 to March 2011, Hale was a second-level “fence” for an organized retail theft scheme involving millions of dollars’ worth of stolen consumer goods transported in interstate commerce. The indictment alleges that professional shoplifters, known as “boosters,” committed large-scale retail theft of thousands of consumer products, including popular name brand over-the-counter non-prescription drug products and over-the-counter health and beauty aid products, and sold the stolen goods for cash to multi-level fencing operators, known as “fences.”
According to allegations contained in the indictment, Hale provided Bonnie Bridges with a “shopping list” of consumer products along with the prices that Hale would pay for those goods. The indictment alleges that Bonnie Bridges, Kimberly Morris, Michael Morris, Darlene Schoener, William Schoener, Darryl Brock and other first-level fences bought bulk quantities of stolen retail products from the boosters, and delivered the unsorted stolen merchandise to Hale at the Double D Distributing warehouse in plastic garbage bags, boxes and plastic containers, in exchange for cash payments. The indictment also alleges that Hale only accepted products with undamaged packaging and extended expiration dates, known as “shelf life,” that were marketable in retail stores. According to allegations contained in the indictment, Hale and his employees then removed the retail store security stickers contained on some of the stolen goods and organized the “cleaned” products for shipment to Hale’s customers. The indictment alleges that Hale shipped some of the stolen merchandise out-of-state, including to Florida. Hale sold the stolen consumer products, including name brand OTC-drug products and name brand OTC-HBA products, at discounted prices, up to fifty-two percent (52%) below wholesale prices in the legitimate marketplace, the indictment alleges.
According to allegations contained in the indictment, Hale made false statements in his 2006, 2007 and 2008 income tax returns by failing to include gross receipts substantially in excess of the amounts he claimed on his tax returns. Hale also was charged with failing to collect, truthfully account for and pay over to the IRS quarterly federal income taxes and Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes from the total wages of one of his employees for the tax years 2007 through 2010.
Hale has been charged with one count of conspiracy to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce, which carries a maximum prison term of five years; twelve counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carry a maximum prison term of 10 years per count; three counts of false statements on income tax returns, which carry a maximum prison term of three years per count; and fourteen counts of failing to collect, truthfully account for and pay quarterly federal income taxes and FICA taxes for a former employee, which carry a maximum prison term of five years per count. Each count also carries a $250,000 fine.
The indictment includes a notice of forfeiture, which gives notice that the defendant must forfeit to the United States all of the property, currency and monetary instruments involved in the offenses charged in the indictment. The government will pursue a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of at least $8,265,145, which the government contends constitutes the proceeds of the violations alleged in the indictment.
Hale had his initial appearance this morning in federal court in Charlotte. He was released on bond and was ordered to home detention with electronic monitoring. Hale is also prohibited from working in the wholesale goods business.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation was handled by USSS, IRS-CI, the Gaston County Police Department and the Gastonia Police Department. This prosecution is handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Tom O’Malley and Ben Bain-Creed of the Western District of North Carolina.