A growing trend in the U.S. is the use of fake barcodes to steal items from various merchants. The way this works is a person goes into a store and finds high-priced products they're looking to take. Rather than stealing the merchandise outright, the person will either arrive at the store with fake barcodes in hand or will print up false labels and return to the store with them.
The fake barcodes are for items that cost significantly less than the ones the person intends to steal from the store. They slap the new label onto the high-priced merchandise, and proceed to the checkout, making it appear as if they have paid for it. Although technically they have "paid" for the item, it wasn't for the actual value.
In many cases, purchasing merchandise for less by using an altered barcode can lead to theft charges. However, depending on how the transactions are organized and carried out, engaging in such behavior can also lead to federal racketeering charges, which carries harsh punishments.
Recent Case Involving Fake Barcodes
A man was charged with racketeering for allegedly purchasing expensive items at reduced costs. Investigators say he would go into a store, place items in his shopping cart, and slyly affix an altered barcode to the packages. Then, he would leave the store and call one of his associates to purchase the items at either a self-checkout line or one with a cashier. With the fake barcode covering the original, the associate was able to purchase merchandise worth $100 or more for $8 to $20.
The associates would then send the purchased goods to the man, and he would sell the item for nearly its original price.
Facing Racketeering Charges
Investigators allege that the man and his associates carried out the barcode swap at various stores in 23 counties in Florida and 8 other states. The scheme resulted in the theft of about $300,000 worth of merchandise. The man and 3 others were arrested, and investigators are looking for 2 other people they believe were involved in the offenses.
The man, who was allegedly the ringleader of the organization, was charged with:
- Conspiracy to commit racketeering, and
- Grand theft
For a person to be charged under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, they must have committed a specific crime through extortion or coercion. Additionally, in order for conduct to be considered a pattern of racketeering activity, the individual or group involved must have carried at least 2 related offenses within 10 years. Those involved in the barcode swapping scheme were alleged to have committed 150 thefts since January of 2019.
A person convicted of racketeering could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.If you were charged with a state or federal crime in Miami, Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez, P.A. is here to provide the aggressive defense you need to fight the allegations made against you. Call us today at (305) 400-0074 or contact us online for a free consultation.