Operation Sticky Fingers: A.G. Schneiderman Announces Felony Convictions Of Members Of Massive Nationwide Organized Theft Ring

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2017

Attorney General’s Press Office / 212-416-8060
nyag.pressoffice@ag.ny.gov
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

OPERATION STICKY FINGERS: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES FELONY CONVICTIONS OF MEMBERS OF MASSIVE NATIONWIDE ORGANIZED THEFT RING

Joint AG-NYSP Investigation Leads To Guilty Pleas Of Three Defendants Who Will Be Sentenced To State Prison

Operation Sticky Fingers Was One of The Largest-Ever Busts Of An Organized Retail Theft Ring

 Ring Stole Over $12 Million In High-End Electronics & Ink Cartridges From Stores Like Staples, Office Depot, BestBuy In 28 States – And Resold Merchandise On Amazon And eBay

Click Here for Video and Photos of the Stolen Merchandise

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the guilty pleas of three individuals in Operation Sticky Fingers for their roles as members of a massive criminal theft and fencing ring that operated in New York and 27 other states across the country. Operation Stick Fingers was one of the largest-ever busts of a retail theft ring. 

During “Operation Sticky Fingers,” a ten-month investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force with support from the New York State Police, law enforcement seized more than 5,300 stolen electronics and ink cartridges from the enterprise’s kingpin, Richard Rimbaugh; the enterprise’s theft crew manager, George Athanasatos; and from various members of the theft crews. In addition, investigators seized more than $7.7 million dollars from the defendants’ homes, financial institutions, and Amazon and PayPal merchant accounts.

Today, Athanasatos pleaded guilty to attempted enterprise corruption, criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree, and money laundering in the second degree.  He will be sentenced to 3 ½ to 7 years in prison and will forfeit $439,204.88 in illegal proceeds. Additionally, both Robert Scarano and Joseph Pooler pleaded guilty. Scarano will receive a sentence of 2 to 6 years in prison, while Pooler will be sentenced to 1 to 3 years. 

“Retail theft is not a victimless crime. Ultimately, consumers pay higher prices while the perpetrators of these schemes cash in,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “These guilty pleas -- and the forfeiture of hundreds of thousands of dollars -- mark a major victory in what was one of the largest-ever busts of a retail theft ring. Even as these schemes grow more complex and elaborate, we will continue to work closely with our partners in law enforcement to prosecute those who shortchange New York businesses and consumers.”

The Attorney General’s investigation uncovered that Rimbaugh, known to members of the enterprise as the “General,” allegedly instructed several theft crews to steal specific printer ink cartridges, computer software, and other consumer retail electronics based on his ability to resell those stolen goods on Amazon and eBay.  Rimbaugh allegedly dictated the price that the theft crews would receive for the stolen merchandise, typically paying between 30-50% of the retail value, then resold the stolen merchandise on the internet through his illegitimate business, American Media Soft, which he operated out of his Manhattan apartment. At this location, Rimbaugh allegedly received, sorted, catalogued, and shipped the stolen merchandise for resale.  Rimbaugh also routinely met with theft crew members to pay them for the stolen merchandise.  The crews are charged with stealing millions of dollars in merchandise – including electronic goods and printer cartridges – from Staples, Office Depot, BestBuy, and other retailers across 28 states. During the course of the investigation, OCTF investigators used physical and electronic surveillance to track the movements of the theft crews, monitor their shipments of stolen goods to Rimbaugh, and obtain numerous surveillance videos of the theft crews while stealing merchandise from retail stores across the country.

George Athanasatos, of Brooklyn, who was referred to by members of the enterprise as “Field Marshall,” admitted today that he reported directly to Rimbaugh and was the manager of three of the four theft crews that delivered stolen merchandise to Rimbaugh at his Manhattan apartment.  Athanasatos managed the day-to-day operations of these three theft crews and received a percentage of the total amount of money that Rimbaugh would pay the crew for their stolen merchandise.  Rimbaugh and Athanasatos dispatched the three theft crews on missions to various regions across the country and remotely managed their progress during each undertaking, which took place on a weekly basis. 

In addition to advising the theft crewmembers, Athanasatos admitted to providing the groups with coded maps detailing target retail locations, such as Staples, Office Depot, and BestBuy.  He also provided members of the theft crews with “booster” gear, such as custom-made vests known as “bazookas.” When worn underneath regular clothing, “bazookas” can conceal large amounts of merchandise while inside of the stores.  When departing the stores, the crews allegedly used “kryptonite” devices to deactivate security alarms at store exits, as well as short-wave radios, which made it easier for the crews to eavesdrop on store security in order to warn one another about the presence of security or law enforcement.  Multiple anti-security devices, such as “kryptonite”, Alpha Keys, and Spider Wraps, were seized from Athanasatos’ residence during the execution of a search warrant.

Robert Scarano, of Las Vegas, also pleaded guilty today to enterprise corruption.  He will be sentenced to 2 to 6 years in prison. Scarano admitted to being the leader of a two-person theft crew that executed dozens of retail thefts and delivered thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise to Rimbaugh at his Manhattan apartment. Scarano is scheduled to be sentenced on November 15, 2017.

Joseph Pooler, a/k/a “Baby Arm Johnson,” of Stroudsburg, PA also pleaded guilty today to enterprise corruption.  He will be sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison. Pooler admitted to being the Sergeant of a two-person theft crew that executed dozens of retail thefts and delivered thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise to Rimbaugh at his Manhattan apartment. Pooler is scheduled to be sentenced on November 15, 2017.

The following defendants have previously pled guilty:

Frank Albergo, of Oviedo, FL, pled guilty to attempted enterprise corruption on April 26, 2017 and was sentenced to 1 ½ to 4 ½ years in prison for his role as a theft crew Lieutenant.

Krissylee Harris, of Brooklyn, NY, pled guilty to attempted enterprise corruption on May 10, 2017 for her role as a theft crew Lieutenant.                                        

Nusret Srdanovic, of Brooklyn, NY, pled guilty to enterprise corruption on April 26, 2017 and was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison for his role as a theft crew Sergeant.

Kevin Cerrato, of Elmont, NY, pled guilty to enterprise corruption on July 6, 2017 for his role as a theft crew Sergeant.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on October 4, 2017.

The charges against the following defendants are still pending:

Richard Rimbaugh, a/k/a “The General,” 64, Fence of the Enterprise, New York, NY

George Rapatsouleas, a/k/a “Skipper,” a/k/a “Nipplehead,” 31, Captain, Brooklyn, NY

Gregory Anastasiou, a/k/a “Captain Frank”, 38, Captain, East Stroudsburg, PA

Giovanna Bonello, 28, Lieutenant, Staten Island, NY

Roger Ringhiser, 41, Captain, Long Beach, NY,

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Shanon Nicholas LaCorte.  Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff supervised the investigation  and runs the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force.

 

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