Two Long Islanders were among a dozen suspects arrested for their alleged roles in a sophisticated crime ring that stole $12 million in electronics and ink cartridges from stores in 28 states and then sold the stolen goods online, prosecutors said.
Kevin Cerrato, 22, of Elmont, and 53-year-old Roger “Captain Rog” Ringhiser of Long Beach were charged Wednesday in Manhattan court with enterprise corruption, money laundering, criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy. Investigators dubbed the 10-month probe culminating in a 41-count indictment “Operation Sticky Fingers.”
“Retail theft is becoming increasingly organized, with crime rings preying on businesses and creating a vicious cycle that ultimately harms consumers, when the costs are passed on in the form of higher prices,” New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, calling the case “one of the largest-ever busts of a retail theft ring.”
Authorities said they seized more than 5,300 stolen electronics and ink cartridges and more than $7.7 million from the defendants’ homes, financial institutions and Amazon and PayPal merchant accounts. The crews targeted Staples, Office Depot, BestBuy and other retailers for over 20 years and resold the stolen items for up to half their retail price, according to investigators.
The crew mapped out their often daily thefts in advance and used custom-made vests known as “bazookas” that concealed large amounts of merchandise, prosecutors said. They also used “kryptonite” devices to deactivate security alarms at store exits, authorities said. In addition, they allegedly monitored store security personnel by using short-wave radios.
The crews then shipped the goods to the alleged ringleader’s home, where investigators tracked shipments, Schneiderman’s office said. While investigators were executing a search warrant, five packages of stolen merchandise arrived, authorities added. The crews were also caught on surveillance videos, prosecutors said.
The suspects face between eight and 25 years in prison, if convicted.