New Castle News

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July 24, 2013

Two charged in shoplifting racket case

NEW CASTLE — Keurig coffee makers, Ninja juicers and Lego toys were popular targets of an alleged shoplifting ring that operated regionally.

Authorities charged two men in Lawrence County Tuesday with felony counts of racketeering and retail theft, but say the men — both Allegheny County residents — were active throughout western Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The suspects allegedly focused on Walmarts for the merchandise they stole, including 18 stores in Pennsylvania. Among these was the Walmart in Union Township.

The office of the Pennsylvania attorney general is charging James E. Austin, 35, of Pittsburgh and Richard D. Scalise, 39, of Monroeville in the case. The charges were filed in the office of District Judge Jennifer Nicholson.

According to the criminal complaint, authorities were contacted by a Walmart representative in April last year regarding a retail theft ring operating in Pennsylvania and Ohio and the two men — Scalise and Austin — who had been arrested in Ohio.

Walmart provided investigators with video allegedly showing the two men in various stores.

The complaint said the two men had been picked up at a Walmart in Kent, where Austin had been stopped leaving with a juicer and coffee maker. He provided security personnel with a receipt that turned out to have been issued earlier in the day.

According to the complaint, Austin admitted he was working with Scalise, who had purchased similar items and then gave Austin the receipt to produce if he was caught leaving the store with identical merchandise.

As part of the operation, the merchandise was then returned to the store with no receipt, and the suspects were given either gift cards or cash.

By checking its records, the complaint said, Walmart personnel were able to identify $3,647.51 worth of items taken by the suspects in Pennsylvania.

Scalise and Austin are charged with 18 felony counts of retail theft as well as one charge each of racketeering and conspiracy.

Preliminary hearings for the suspects have not been set.

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