Richmond VA March 3 2018 The first heist happened in Colonial Heights, near Petersburg, according to court documents.
From there, the seven-person crew struck stores in North Chesterfield, Midlothian, Richmond and Mechanicsville before heading east toward Hampton Roads.
By the end of the day, they’d hit at least nine businesses.
Their target: pet supplies.
Joseph Heim Jr., 42, of Harrisburg, Pa., and Timothy B. Erb Jr., 24, of Wormleysburg, Pa., were indicted last week in connection with a shoplifting ring that targeted PetSmart locations across Virginia and North Carolina. They were arrested May 6, 2016, in Suffolk.
In all, the conspiracy netted at least $38,000 worth of pet supplies and possibly more than $100,000, according to court documents.
“This is very, very profitable,” said Robert Moraca, a vice president with the National Retail Federation. He referred to it as “organized retail crime,” and said it, along with shoplifting in general, is a growing problem. He said the industry now views it as more serious to their profits than internal theft, administrative errors and vendor fraud.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Stoker declined to comment on the indictment, which charges the men with conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen property.
Federal court records do not list attorneys for Heim and Erb, who have been incarcerated for almost two years on state charges.
Heim entered into a plea agreement with state prosecutors and was sentenced last year to three years in state prison. Suffolk prosecutors on Wednesday dropped charges against Erb in light of the federal case.
According to the indictment, Heim and Erb were running a pet supply business that got its inventory by stealing from PetSmarts.