California pair indicted for retail theft scheme; more than $800,000 in equipment stolen from home improvement chain
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Scheme victimized 190 stores in 23 states with nearly 500 equipment thefts; At least ten different stores victimized in Western Washington
Seattle – A man and woman from Southern California were arrested this week on an indictment charging them with conspiracy and ten counts of wire fraud related to an organized retail theft scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Jalen Amir Thomas, 27, of Santa Monica, California, and Armia Ta’Jae Timmons, 25, of Los Angeles, were arrested on the eleven-count indictment. They appeared in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California yesterday. Prosecutors will ask that they be detained and transported to the Western District of Washington for arraignment.
“Organized retail theft has exploded across the country, due in large part to the growth of an online resale marketplace,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “In this case, we allege the coconspirators hatched a scheme to rent high-value construction equipment and then fail to return it. They allegedly sold the stolen goods on websites such as OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace. They traveled through 23 different states and hit nearly 200 stores causing more than $800,000 in losses. We are putting a stop to it here in Western Washington.”
“As the US retail sector faces increasing challenges such as layoffs and store closings, it becomes more difficult for stores to absorb the impact of retail fraud, which amounts to billions of dollars in losses,” said SAC Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “HSI is proud to have started a strategic initiative with the Seattle Police Department and various corporate partners in 2023 to hold those involved in organized retail theft accountable for their actions.”
According to the indictment, as early as March 2022, Thomas led a group including Timmons, that traveled the U.S., stopping at home improvement stores and renting two types of expensive construction equipment: jumping jack tampers and vibratory plate compactors valued between $1,500 and $2,000 each. The group used debit cards to make a small rental deposit for each machine and signed an agreement that if the equipment was not returned on time, they would pay mounting fees. They used false identities and ruse telephone numbers to rent the equipment. They transported stolen goods in vans and rental trucks.
In all, some 480 pieces of equipment were stolen from the home improvement stores. When a store tried to charge the debit account for the value of the equipment or the penalties incurred, it learned there was insufficient funds to cover the debt. Thomas and Timmons then attempted to sell the stolen equipment at a steep discount on various online marketplaces.
The group stole multiple items of equipment from stores in Federal Way, Tacoma, Vancouver, Covington, Longview, Bothell, Everett, Redmond, and Seattle.
Because the deposits traveled by wire outside the state of Washington, the pair is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and ten counts of wire fraud and/or aiding and abetting wire fraud.
The conspiracy count and the wire fraud counts are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation is being led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Watts Staniar.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.
Updated May 4, 2023