Man sentenced for organized retail theft scheme that hit Western Washington, 23 states total


A California man has been sentenced in Seattle to five years in prison for organizing a retail theft scheme that resulted in more than $664,000 in damages and hurt businesses in 23 states.

Jaylan Amir Thomas, 27, and a crew he organized stole many types of expensive construction equipment from home improvement stores in Tacoma, Federal Way and Seattle, among other cities, according to a statement from the United States Attorney of the Western District of Washington. Thomas was arrested in May 2023 and pleaded guilty to wire fraud in December.

At his sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said Thomas, "persisted in this crime spree after being arrested and charged in multiple jurisdictions."

According to records in the case, from March 2022 onwards Thomas led a group of people who traveled the U.S. renting expensive construction equipment from home improvement stores, then stole the equipment and sold it online.

In total, Thomas and his crew stole more than 480 pieces of equipment from 190 home improvement stores in 23 states, the press release said. The group stole multiple items of equipment from stores in Tacoma, Federal Way, Vancouver, Covington, Longview, Bothell, Everett, Redmond and Seattle.

Although Thomas was arrested four times in three different jurisdictions in relation to the scheme, "it did not deter him," the U.S. Attorney's office wrote. "He would bail out of jail and continue the fraud."

Thomas used more than 150 fake IDs and dozens of fake telephone numbers to trick stores into renting him the equipment, then locked several debit card accounts to prevent the stores from charging the cards for rental deposits or fines, according to the department.

"Mr. Thomas recruited others to his criminal scheme, and thus altered the trajectory of their lives with criminal charges in various states," said U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman in the release. "Despite advantages such as a stable home and college studies, Mr. Thomas chose fraud as his path."

The investigation into Thomas' activity was led by Homeland Security Investigations.

"Mr. Thomas's multi-state retail theft scheme not only resulted in substantial financial losses for retailers but also highlighted the complex and widespread nature of organized retail crime," said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. "This orchestrated fraud operation underscores the critical need for collaborative efforts, including robust public-private partnerships, to combat such threats effectively. Homeland Security Investigations played a pivotal role in unraveling this intricate network, emphasizing the importance of coordinated efforts between government agencies and private businesses in safeguarding communities from the pervasive impact of organized crime."


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