CT officials vow to fight the rise in organized retail crime


As some of the largest retailers push Congress for a law to stop online sales of stolen goods, the Connecticut Attorney General is promising to revive the state’s efforts to work with other government agencies and the private sector to thwart organized retail criminal circles .

Last week, the CEOs of some of the country’s largest retailers urged Congress to vote on the Inform Act. The Inform Act, an acronym for integrity, notification, and fairness in online retail marketplaces, requires online marketplaces to collect third-party bank account numbers that reach a certain volume threshold on their platforms, as well as copies of IDs such as driver’s licenses and contact details.


The law would apply to those selling 200 new or unused products annually with total sales of $ 5,000 or more. Violations would expose individuals or companies to Federal Trade Commission penalties to thwart unfair or fraudulent business practices. Online marketplaces would have to lock the accounts of high volume sellers who do not recertify their information at least annually.

“The Inform Act is a first step,” said US Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., In an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media on Tuesday. “Consumers should be able to trust that the products they buy online are not counterfeit, unsafe or stolen. I am very interested in holding the tech platforms accountable. “

Governor Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong plan on Wednesday to announce plans to partner with major tech companies to tackle organized retail crime.

Tong said Tuesday that his office is planning new initiatives to fight organized retail crime, and expressed his own expectations that online retailers like Amazon and eBay need to do more to identify fenced goods sellers and alert the authorities.

“I am giving them the opportunity to show me that they are ready to invest the resources, time and energy in stopping the flow of illegal goods,” Tong said.

Last week, after Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul formed a task force to fight organized retail crime by coordinating the efforts of detectives, retailers, and online sellers, Raoul announced the task’s first major bankruptcy last week Force in the recovery of millions of dollars that were self-destructed from storage facilities in the Chicago area.

Speaking at a press conference in early December, Raoul said people can be vigilant for clues as to whether items sold online might be hot, whether the price is way below competing products, or other tell-tale traits like the lack of a warranty option for expensive products like home appliances.

“This is something that is evolving for law enforcement at the national level,” Raoul said. “We can’t do it alone.”

In 2010, the Connecticut General Assembly declared organized retail theft a Class C crime if thieves were selling $ 10,000 or more and a Class D crime otherwise. The maximum penalties are $ 10,000 and 10 years in prison for class C crimes and five years and $ 5,000 for class D.

Blumenthal argues that because of an element of federal law that gives them some protection, online sellers have “virtually complete immunity” in cases where their platforms are used by third parties for illegal purposes.

The first federal legislation was passed last spring by US Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., And Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La., Along with US MP Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Who later became Rep. Jan Schakowsky , D-Ill., On a version of the law in the House of Representatives.

“Online marketplaces are number one for these professional crews to dispose of their products,” said Ben Dugan, director of retail crime prevention and corporate investigations at CVS, based in Woonsocket, RI, at a US Senate judiciary hearing in the United States November committee. “This is not a big city crime – it happens in all 50 states. Theft and organized retail crime are just as common in low-crime suburbs as they are in America’s largest cities. “

Dugan praised eBay for its efforts to aid the investigation, but argued that no online marketplace had sufficient transparent systems to prevent criminal resale of stolen or counterfeit products.

Connecticut is home to a Potoo Solutions company that monitors Amazon and other websites for malicious third-party actors. More than 500 product companies commission Norwalk to “protect” their brands.

CEO Fred Dimyan said Amazon and eBay are “largely ahead of Congress in this regard,” but criminal rings can avoid detection by stealing in bulk and then posting those goods online in small quantities to avoid detection.

“Sometimes the person who sells it and the person who steals it are different people,” Dimyan said on Tuesday. “There are a lot of people selling on the online platforms looking for a discount on an item, and now there are these units of retail organized crime selling small quantities to these sellers. It could be quite elaborate and almost impossible to … track and link everything. “

Tong said Amazon, eBay, and other companies could start expanding their resources significantly.

“My answer to ‘well this is hard’ is ‘well it’s your job,'” Tong said. “It’s your responsibility – we don’t want excuses, we want action.”

Alex. [email protected]; 203-842-2545; @casoulman

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