SOUTHWEST RANCHES (CBSMiami) – Four employees of a Lowe’s store in Southwest Ranches were arrested and charged after they were reportedly caught walking merchandise out of the store.
A fifth person suspected of taking part in the scheme is on the run, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
“They thought they had a fool-proof plan, but there were holes in that plan,” said BSO spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion.
The investigation began a little more than three months ago when the sheriff’s office was notified of the theft scam at the store in the 6600 block of Dykes Road by Lowe’s loss prevention department.
The scam involved two employees, Edgardo Gutierrez, 24, and Julien Elie, 22, who would fill carts with expensive merchandise and head to a register manned by one their three cashier accomplices; 20-year old Fabien Tassy, 24-year old Willie Bartherlemy and 19-year old Lucas Gonzalez.
Sheriff’s investigators found cashiers acted as if they were scanning all the merchandise, but usually only charged an inexpensive item or a soft drink. Gutierrez and Elie would then walk out of the store with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise having paid only a few bucks.
“The items brought to the register were not actually being purchased onto a receipt,” said Concepcion. “These five were stealing merchandise and not purchasing it.”
In total, the sheriff’s office and Lowe’s suspect the group stole at $70,000 worth of merchandise which included power tools, electrical equipment, lawn and garden products, construction and contracting tools and other miscellaneous items. The items were then sold online or to people they knew, according to the sheriff’s office.
Bartherlemy, Gonzalez, Gutierrez and Elie were all taken into custody on August 31st and charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. All have since been released on bond. Tassy remains at large.
CBS4 contacted Lowe’s headquarters in North Carolina to talk about the theft and were given the following statement.
“Because this is still an active law enforcement investigation, we are unable to provide additional details,” said Lowe’s spokeswoman Karen Cobb. “We appreciate the cooperation and work of local authorities as the investigation into this situation continues.”
BSO said that crimes like this will always come to light because surveillance cameras don’t lie.