6.10.15

THE REVERSE PAWN-SHOP.

A Detroit entrepreneur helps the destitute supplement their income by shoplifting.
His business? Running a large-scale fencing operation, using a team of prostitutes, heroin users, parolees and panhandlers to steal high-priced items from local Home Depots. He would then recruit homeless people from shelters to return the stolen merchandise to a different store. Since homeless people often have legitimate identification, as required by the store for any returns, they were given store debit cards, akin to gift cards, which they handed over to [former used-car dealer Adelbert] Ackerman.

He paid the prostitutes and drug users 20% of the value of the stolen goods and the homeless people $15-$20 for each successful return. He in turn sold the cards to contractors and customers he recruited in Home Depot parking lots at a 70% discount.
Like every other hustler, he expected to be able to get away with it.  But the authorities took their time rolling up his network.
Oakland County’s Narcotics Enforcement Team was noticing a peculiar trend. While conducting drug raids on homes, they were finding Home Depot gift cards that were apparently being used as currency for drug trafficking. They contacted Home Depot and joined the investigation. It appeared that Ackerman was sometimes awarding his best workers with both cash and store cards.
Mr Ackerman now faces charges for running a criminal enterprise. That's distinct from running a used-car dealership.

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