For nearly three years, two Perrysburg Township Police officials have been hard at work investigating a
crime spree which is nearing a close.
Their work has gone on through a collaborative effort including numerous loss prevention specialists with
nearly a dozen retail chains.
Detective Sergeant James Gross and Detective Todd Curtis last week made a trip to Columbus to offer
information on their efforts in this case to a newly formed Ohio Retail Organized Crime Coalition
Through this coalition which involves both law enforcement and retailers, the organizers attempt to
establish better communication and cooperation to "identify, investigate and successfully prosecute
predatory organized thieves who cross jurisdictions."
The case which Gross and Curtis have been involved in investigating and assisting in the prosecution
involved nearly 70 people and 12 counties in three states.
The National Retail Federation 2010 Organized Retail Crime Survey reports that retail thefts account for
a loss of more than $15 billion each year.
The two Perrysburg Township officials provided much information about their experiences in this case.
Gross said they explained how they investigated and what was involved in tracking the gift cards.
Both said their efforts would not have been possible without the assistance and resources of the loss
specialists with the various stores.
The extensive list of stores involved included Home Depot, Walmart, Lowe’s, Kohl’s, Target, Meijer and
J.C. Penny, to name a few.
Gross said the total value of merchandise stolen easily exceeded half a million dollars. Through recovery
of some gift cards given to defendants in exchange for stolen merchandise, the prosecution is only
seeking restitution of $250,000.
Gwen Howe-Gebers, an assistant Wood County prosecuting attorney, told Judge Robert Pollex at the
sentencing of two of the spree leaders, that as a system, she has come to realize, "We have taken
this too lightly."
Referring to the whole operation of retail theft used to fund other criminal activity, she said,
"This is not purely shoplifting. This is organized crime and a gateway to other crimes."
One of the defense attorneys in this case, Lorin J. Zaner, also asserted blame to the police detectives.
"The detectives knew about this and allowed it to continue. It could have been stopped sooner,"
the attorney alleged.
Following the sentencing hearings, Gross said, "That accusation completely offended me. That is how
law enforcement works. We conducted a thorough investigation."
Howe-Gebers was similarly fired up and told the judge, "Law enforcement has to build cases. This
case involved good law enforcement practices," she said noting the thousands of hours of
surveillance and paperwork involved.
The state will be divided into regions with both law enforcement and retailers able to access information
from their own or any other region in the state.
Following both sentencings, Curtis said despite this case wrapping up, his office will continue its
efforts in investigating related and other similar crimes.
"This (new coalition) will be another tool to assist in these investigations," Gross said.
"Any individual or business buying or selling these gift cards obtained through theft, will hear
from law enforcement," Curtis added.
He said this case began as a simple drug enforcement case and rapidly expanded.
Though this case spanned three states, the Wood County Prosecutor’s office pursued all the charges as the
majority of the thefts were from the U.S. 20 corridor in Perrysburg Township, Perrysburg and Rossford.
Curtis said Findlay was the second largest area for the thefts.
Sentenced for crime spree