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Shoplifting swept up luxury goods stores, prosecutors say


For years, the leader of a New York City thieves ring has been making wish lists for dozens of underlings whom he has sent to shoplift millions of dollars worth of beauty and luxury goods. could quickly sell online, prosecutors said Thursday.

The leader, Roni Rubinov, 42, has been charged with corporate bribery, money laundering and other crimes, the New York state attorney general’s office announced Thursday. Prosecutors said he had a keen sense of his bargain: He ordered his subordinates to target stores such as Neiman Marcus, CVS, Sephora and Bloomingdale’s, where his employees would steal eye creams, hair serums and products from companies like Revlon, Burt’s Bees and Vichy.

They also stole designer items, officials said, including a Jimmy Choo gold handbag and Gucci and Oscar de la Renta clothes, and would then take the goods to one of Midtown Manhattan’s pawnshops. Mr Rubinov. There, other people working for the ringleader would buy the stolen items for a fraction of their retail value, before the goods were eventually resold on eBay.

“Mr. Rubinov, himself, preys on the weak,” Nicholas Fiore, assistant inspector for the New York Police Department’s Central Robbery Division, said at a press conference on Thursday. Mr. Rubinov employed often people who had a long history of drug use and petty crimes, he said.

Perhaps the most egregious crime that Mr. Rubinov is accused of committing, Attorney General Letitia James told the press conference, is buying discounted food stamps from his subordinates and selling them. use to buy groceries for himself.

Mr. Rubinov, of Fresh Meadows, Queens, was one of 41 people charged in connection with the ring of thieves, officials said Thursday. In total, more than $3.8 million in stolen retail items were seized by police and the attorney general’s office. They also recovered over 550 stolen gift cards and charge cards and over $300,000 in invoices.

The arrests came as the city continues to grapple with how to stimulate an economy disrupted by the pandemic. Major retailers have closed locations across Manhattan as remote work changes traffic and commerce patterns. Small businesses have few financial resources to wait for change.

Many businesses in the city are “hanging by a thread right now,” Mayor Eric Adams said at the press conference. “Some would look at that and say, ‘What’s the big impact? This has a huge impact on our economy. It erodes trust. This sends the signal that we are in a city out of control.

He added: “This is not a town where you can walk into a store, take what you want and walk out.”

Nationally organized groups increasingly stole large quantities of goods from retailers to resell online, and Mr. Rubinov and his managers began recruiting people to steal highly profitable goods in 2017. Almost every day of the week, workers brought stolen goods to New Liberty. Loans Pawn Shop or Romanov Gold Buyers Inc., both located on West 47th Street and both owned by Mr. Rubinov, prosecutors said.

Those working in brick-and-mortar stores would pay cash for stolen goods, officials said. After these transactions, the merchandise was taken to Mr. Rubinov’s home or to a so-called stash house in Queens, where the stolen goods were kept. Other employees would then post the property for resale on an eBay store.

In 2019, Rubinov signed a lease for a large warehouse at Fresh Meadows, where he planned to open a department store-like facility to hold his stock.

Mr. Rubinov could not be reached for comment on Thursday. It was unclear if he had an attorney.

The indictment was unsealed Thursday before Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan. Most defendants face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Ms James said her office and police were also considering similar shoplifting schemes “to send a message out there that the mayor has reiterated that this will not be tolerated in New York City”.

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