Attorney General Pam Bondi unveiled late Thursday a legislative proposal intended to stop organized retail theft, a type of organized crime that ultimately leaves consumers paying higher prices as a result of businesses’ losses, announced the Attorney General's Office.
The National Retail Federation estimates retailers lose more than $30 billion per year to retail theft, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers retail theft a “gateway crime” committed by major crime rings that use the proceeds to fund other illegal activity. In a typical retail theft scheme, criminals steal thousands of dollars worth of products over a period of time and often sell them at flea markets or online.
The legislative proposal sponsored by Representative Ross Spano (House Bill 1173) and Senator Kelli Stargel (Senate Bill 1404) would enhance the penalties for a violation of Florida Statute 817.034(4)(a) by increasing the sentencing scoring guidelines for an organized retail theft offense that exceeds $50,000.
The enhanced penalties align the sentencing of organized retail theft charges with first degree grand theft. As a result, a person convicted of retail theft at $50,000 or more would face a baseline sentence of 21 months in prison.
“Organized retail crime is a highly sophisticated operation that involves the large-scale theft of everyday consumer items by professional shoplifters,” Attorney General Bondi stated in a prepared release. “The legislation will give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools needed to arrest and prosecute these individuals, so consumers don’t have to bear the financial brunt of this illegal activity.”
“Millions of dollars are being stolen from businesses in Florida every year by organizing retail fraud. In order to crack down on this illegal industry, our laws against such offences need to be strengthened. I am excited to sponsor legislation that enhances the Florida Communications Fraud Act and to work with Attorney General Bondi in addressing this issue on behalf of Florida’s businesses and consumers,” stated Senator Kelli Stargel.
“This legislation offers significant protection to both businesses and consumers who ultimately burden the costs associated with organized retail crime. I commend Attorney General Bondi for taking the lead on this initiative and look forward to championing House Bill 1173 in the Florida House,” stated Representative Ross Spano.
Additionally, the legislation adds language to the Florida Communications Fraud Act which makes it clear that these types of organized schemes all have a five-year statute of limitations, similar to the five-year statute of limitations placed on other theft charges.