Two Twin Cities men busted for selling nearly $1M in stolen merchandise

"These guys priced it so it seemed legitimate, it just seemed discounted.”

Edgar Linares
August 23, 2018 - 7:38 pm

By Edgar Linares

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It is being called one of the largest fencing and racketeering operations in the metro and now two men have been taken into custody.

“Retailers such as JC Penny’s, Home Depot, CVS, Macy’s, Menard’s, Pet Smart, Cabela’s and numerous other large retailers were being impacted,” said Sgt. Neil Bauer, with the Woodbury Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit. “We also know that several smaller retailers, locally owned, businesses were also being heavily impacted as well.”

The investigation started in June, when Brian James Bowling, 45, of St Paul was questioned for allegedly shoplifting a boxed mattress from the JC Penney in Woodbury. After Woodbury Police spoke with Bowling, they say he disclosed that the items he was taking were being sold to Randall David Simmons, 54 of Landfall. This led Woodbury detectives to uncover a massive organized retail theft and racketeering operation. It took investigators months of surveillance to finally bring the operation to a stop.

“Estimates of the volume of products that we recovered were potentially close to $1-million dollars,” said Sgt Bauer. “Today, based on a conversation I had with a small business owner, items that were discovered in the search warrant, he confirmed were taken 18 months ago in numerous thefts that were occurring at his business. This confirms this operation has been going on for years.”

Investigators say they watched Bowling enter these stores and leave within three minutes with stolen items. He would then meet with Simmons and transfer the goods to him. Simmons would then resell the items using internet sites like eBay to unsuspecting buyers. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput says the manner in which Simmons sold the items was carefully thought out.

“These guys were smart enough that when they take stolen items, say a $200 item, they’d list it and sell it for $150 bucks, so twenty percent off,” said Orput. “Typically when you’re buying stolen goods it’s a dime on a dollar, these guys priced it so it seemed legitimate, it just seemed discounted.”

Orput says the problem the men faced was there was just too much product to move, he says they “couldn’t move it fast enough”. Woodbury’s Street Crimes Unit executed five search warrants on Tuesday and detectives were stunned to find so much merchandise.

By Edgar Linares

“An entire house and multiple storage units were dedicated to storage of stolen merchandise,” said Woodbury Police Cmdr. Steve Wills.

Simmons and Bowling could face 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted of on felony racketeering and fencing.

“This is the largest retail theft racketeering and fencing case in the metro area. Thanks to Woodbury police for uncovering this huge organized retail theft and resale operation. This is exactly the type of case the criminal racketeering statute was meant to cover,” said Orput.