Operation Sticky Fingers
Brings Down Retail Theft Ring
March 17, 2017
indictment charges 12 alleged members of a massive criminal theft and
fencing ring that infiltrated New York and 27 other states across the
country – marking one of the largest-ever busts of a retail theft ring.
A 41-count indictment, unsealed in New York Supreme Court today, charged
the 12 alleged co-conspirators with enterprise corruption, money
laundering, criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy. If
convicted, each of the defendants face between 8 to 25 years behind
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 alleged kingpin,
Richard Rimbaugh; the enterprise’s alleged theft crew manager, George
Athanasatos; and from various alleged 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
Through electronic and physical surveillance, as well as analysis of
financial records in conjunction with other investigative tools, the
Attorney General’s investigation alleges that Rimbaugh has been
directing theft crews and reselling stolen merchandise for over 20
years. 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.
Since 2012 alone, the ring has sold more than $12 million of stolen
goods via Amazon and eBay internet marketplace.
“As we allege, this brazen ring of criminals methodically stole millions
from stores across 28 states – resulting in one of the largest-ever
busts of a retail theft ring,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.
“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.
But these thieves are now on notice: we won’t hesitate to pursue retail
theft and prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”
State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "Through this
collaborative investigation, we have uncovered a highly organized,
national theft operation that was responsible for stealing millions of
dollars in merchandise, victimizing both retailers and the public. I
want to commend the outstanding work of the State Police Special
Investigation Unit and the Attorney General's Office for the hard work
that led to the arrests in this case."
As alleged, Rimbaugh, known to members of the enterprise as the
“General”, 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 dictated the price that the theft crews would receive for the
stolen merchandise, typically paying between 30-50% of the retail value.
Rimbaugh then allegedly 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
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; over the 20 years of the ring’s operation,
he is accused of reinvesting approximately half of the proceeds into the
criminal enterprise in the form of cash payments to the theft crews to
pay for the merchandise they stole.
As further alleged, the investigation revealed that George Athanasatos,
referred to by members of the enterprise as “Field Marshall,” reported
directly to Rimbaugh and was the manager of three of the four theft
crews that delivered stolen merchandise to Rimbaugh. Athanasatos
allegedly 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 shoplifters, Athanasatos allegedly provided
the groups with coded maps detailing target retail locations, such as
Staples, Office Depot, and BestBuy. He is also accused of providing
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.
Rimbaugh and Athanasatos’s alleged theft crews each consisted of two or
three members, who each had specified roles: “Captain,” “Lieutenant,” or
“Sergeant.” The “Captain” served as the crew leader and was responsible
for managing and directing the “Lieutenant” and the “Sergeant” while on
a mission. The crews systematically traveled across the country, at the
direction of Rimbaugh and Athanasatos, who issued credit cards to the
crews to cover expenses such as flights, car rentals, and hotels.
Prosecutors allege that the crews often executed a series of retail
thefts on a daily basis and then shipped the stolen merchandise to
Rimbaugh at his New York City apartment, where he prepared the
merchandise for sale on Amazon and eBay. In fact, when the Attorney
General’s office was executing its search warrant on Rimbaugh’s home,
five packages of stolen merchandise arrived.
During the course of the investigation, OCTF investigators tracked the
movements of the theft crews, monitored their shipments of stolen goods
to Rimbaugh, and obtained numerous surveillance videos of the theft
crews while stealing merchandise from retail stores across the country.
The indictment, unsealed before New York Supreme Court Justice Maxwell
Wiley, charged the following individuals with enterprise corruption and
other crimes in relation to their involvement in the organized retail
theft and fencing enterprise. Each defendant, if convicted, faces
between 8 and 25 years in prison.
Richard Rimbaugh, a/k/a “The General,” 64, Fence of the Enterprise, New
George Athanasatos, a/k/a “The Field Marshall,” 62, Manager, Brooklyn,
George Rapatsouleas, a/k/a “Skipper,” a/k/a “Nipplehead,” 31, Captain,
Krissylee Harris, a/k/a “Princess,” 35, Lieutenant, Brooklyn, NY
Nusret Srdanovic, a/k/a “Monte,” 23, Sergeant, Brooklyn, NY
Roger Ringhiser, a/k/a “Captain Rog”, 53, Captain, Long Beach, NY
Frank Albergo, 59, Lieutenant, Oviedo, FL
Kevin Cerrato, 22, Sergeant, Elmont, NY
Gregory Anastasiou, a/k/a “Captain Frank”, 38, Captain, East
Joseph Pooler, a/k/a “Baby Arm Johnson”, 41, Sergeant, Stroudsburg, PA
Robert Scarano, a/k/a “Reno”, 56, Captain, Las Vegas, NY
Giovanna Bonello, 28, Lieutenant, Staten Island, NY
Members of the criminal enterprise are set to be arraigned before New
York Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley beginning today.
investigation also uncovered that Athanasatos was involved in an alleged
welfare fraud conspiracy with Anna Candanedo, in which Athanasatos filed
false documentation with the Nassau County Department of Social Services
in order to facilitate Candanedo’s illicit receipt of housing benefits.
Athanasatos and Candanedo were named on a separate indictment in Nassau
County for charges including forgery, possession of a forged instrument,
offering a false instrument for filling, falsifying business records,
larceny, welfare fraud, and conspiracy to commit those crimes. If
convicted, each of the defendants faces up to 21 years behind bars. The
indictment, unsealed before Nassau County Supreme Court Justice David
Sullivan, charged the following individuals with the aforesaid crimes,
in relation to their involvement in the welfare fraud conspiracy. The
defendants are set to be arraigned before Nassau County Supreme Court
Justice David Sullivan beginning today.
Anna Candanedo, 32, Elmont, NY
George Athanasatos, 62, Brooklyn, NY
The investigation was directed by OCTF Investigators George Gundlach and
Joe Oliver and Analyst Stephanie Tirado. They were supervised by OCTF
Supervising Investigator Paul Grzegorski and Downstate OCTF Deputy Chief
Christopher Vasta under the overall supervision of Investigations Bureau
Chief Dominick Zarrella.
The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorneys General
Shanon LaCorte and Brandi Kligman with the supervision of Deputy
Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff who runs the Organized Crime Task
Force, and under the overall supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney
General for Criminal Justice Jason Brown.