Eligibility

No big fish story here - this is the one that didn't get away!   A collaborative effort with results measured in big dollars, big impact on the bottom line, or big changes in operational policy, this is an investigation that is noteworthy for making an impact and making a difference.  

The Investigation of the Year is about the case, and the whole case - but not "nothing but the case", because this category is intended to recognize the people, the process and the result, which may include the effect the investigation had on others, on the community, and on the industry.  To be eligible for nomination, the investigation must have concluded or culminated to the point of prosecution, during the calendar year of the award nomination.   The investigation is eligible for nomination by anyone that was involved with it, or that has public, or intimate, knowledge of the specific case details.  

We do ask that you please keep the details to a high level, referencing only information that is known publicly, and that you are sensitive to not share any information that is restricted, confidential, or otherwise classified.

To recognize a specific individual as a consistent performer when it comes to investigations, please consider nominating under the Investigator of the Year category.  

and the winner is!

See the Winner Announced Live!...

a little about this year's outstanding investigations:

Your 2021-22 Finalists for Investigation of the Year are:   (In no particular order)
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club ORC Investigation led by Brett Szrejna   - Finalist
  • lululemon ORC Team Investigation   - Finalist
  • Lowe’s ORC Theft led by Todd Isenhour    - First Runner-Up!
  • Operation King of Thieves - HSI Homeland Security Investigations   - WINNER!
 
BJ's Wholesale Club ORC Investigation led by Brett Szrejna, Senior Asset Protection Investigations Manager
Investigation Summary: 

I've worked with Brett for over 15 years, long before he was with BJ's. Ever since I've known him, he's always been an exceptional investigator with intelligent solutions and always on the top of his game.  Brett has a very strong passion for Loss Prevention, and constant has insight on current trends, how to resolve a problem, or knows valuable contacts.  Brett has created some great networks, and recently leveraged his many partnerships to come together, where he pretty much single-handedly investigated and identified an ORC group who not only plagued BJ's with $25K in theft, escalated thefts to $75K at 10 additional retailers throughout Connecticut and had turned violent.  Brett was committed to catch this group and his sense of urgency went above and beyond.  After successfully identifying the actors involved, Brett organized a confidential conference call to reveal his findings, which included the Connecticut Attorney General, which resulted in warrants being issued, and their arrests immediately ordered.  The arrests were simultaneously issued and successfully carried out by multiple agencies.   Thanks to Brett's outstanding drive to stop this group, he successfully did so, which ended their crime spree.  Brett not only helped BJ's, but his actions benefitted all retail in Connecticut and prevented a high amount of intangible losses.  This is absolutely worth commending.  

lululemon ORC Team Investigation
Investigation Summary:   

The following is a recap detailing the search and seizure of the fence buying and selling stolen lululemon merchandise, operating at the Laney and Capitol flea markets located in Oakland and San Jose CA.
The case was initiated by the lululemon ORC investigations team who identified the fence and through RFID remote scans, traced the stolen merchandise back to 2 separate ORC Crews operating nationally.

Through RFID investigative efforts, the ORC team identified the theft crew and established a travel pattern originating in Florida, through the Midwest, Central markets and ending in California.

On 12.21.21, through the coordinating efforts of the ORC team and with the partnership of the Northern California Highway Patrol ORC Task Force and the San Francisco Police Department, a search warrant was served at the residence of the identified fence. 50K in lululemon merchandise, 21K in cash, multiple cell phones, laptops and iPads were seized.

Coordination between peer retailers confirmed the fence was in possession of items from, Dicks Sporting Goods, Abercrombie, Burberry, Patagonia, Arc'teryx, Target, Gap Inc, Victoria Secret, TJX, and Safeway. Peer Retailer merchandise recovered totaled approximately $20K.  Total Search Warrant Value: Approximately $90,000.00

Lowe’s ORC Theft led by Todd Isenhour  
Investigation Summary:

As many investigations do this one started thanks to a suspicious transaction and an alert associate.  The associate realized that something was not quite right with a large order and took the time to ask questions to gather the details around the buyer and the transaction. While this would have easily been nothing more than great customer service for a legitimate sale, it became critical fact gathering for the start of a multi-state, multi-million dollar investigation.
After receiving the details and researching both the information on the buyer and in looking at purchase activity and an increase in theft activity around the core product involved, which was mainly electrical wiring, a pattern was realized and a relationship drawn between both the in-store thefts that were increasing in this product, and also in the fraudulent purchases being made to acquire the same type of product.  Todd and his team developed controls to shut down the opportunity for these purchases, but instead of simply shutting it down and cutting their losses, they partnered with law enforcement in multiple jurisdictions where the transactions were occurring and controlled these sales to occur in these select markets only.  In doing so, they were successful in funneling the activity to these specific areas which would allow the ORC team and law enforcement to establish surveillance and ultimately to not only identify and capture this ORC network, but to recover from several warehouses over 1.4 million dollars in Wire and other product.   The total case value for this investigation was more than 12 million dollars.    What is also of interest in this case is that although most ORC cases of this magnitude include merchandise from a variety of retailers, and results in collaboration across multiple retailer ORC teams, this case, as big as it was, was all Lowes merchandise.  While the case and recovery values would be enough for the honor of investigation of the year, it is the creative back-end systems and outstanding field work that sets this investigation apart.  
 
Operation King of Thieves - Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) ORC Investigation  
Investigations Summary: 

Beginning in 2015, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) targeted a TCO profiting from ORC and other criminal activities. The TCO was comprised of individuals with familial and business ties to Palestine and Egypt who operated wholesale, trading, and/or distribution companies. The owners of these businesses employed professional thieves, known as boosters, to steal specific merchandise from retailers throughout the United States. The OTG leaders would smuggle individuals in from Central America and would finance the “coyote fees” for the deported individuals to return to the US.
After being provided a list of items to steal and front money, by cash or wire transfer, the boosters, mainly from Honduras, would travel to the US targeting retailers such as CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid, among others. The TCO leaders would also wire money to the boosters while they were traveling to continue their stealing cycles. This TCO centered on stolen health and beauty goods, e.g. over-the-counter medications, diabetic test strips, shaving razors, etc. These items are high-value and easy to conceal.

The main method utilized by the boosters to steal was to covertly remove the aforementioned items from the shelf and place into a large bag or purse lined with heavy duty aluminum foil to defeat the store security sensors. Once stolen, the boosters would utilize shipping centers to send the stolen items to alias names specified by the TCO. When the boosters returned to meet with the TCO leaders, they would be paid in cash or by check. Utilizing a former booster as a confidential informant (CI), HSI was able to insert this individual into the organization by making multiple sales of purportedly stolen merchandise to the TCO leaders. Additionally, it was later revealed that the TCO began a large-scale healthcare fraud conspiracy through various pharmacies throughout the US, and millions of dollars in criminal proceeds were being utilized at casinos and wired to individuals and businesses overseas.

From 2018 through 2021, HSI led enforcement operations against the TCO with assistance from FDA-OCI, HHS-OIG, FBI, and various state/local law enforcement agencies. There were 24 criminal arrests and approximately US$8,000,000, two homes, and land were seized. The criminals were charges with Interstate Transportation of Stolen Goods (18 USC § 2314), Possession of Stolen Property (18 USC § 2315 ), Conspiracy (18 USC § 371), Monetary Transactions Derived from SUA’s (18 USC § 1957), Healthcare Fraud (18 USC § 1347) and Attempt and Conspiracy (18 USC § 1349).

It was determined that there was a revenue loss of approximately US$30,000,000 to retailers directly related to ORC and $134,000,000 to insurance and government programs related to healthcare fraud.
 

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PAST WINNERS

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNER OF THE
2020-2021 INVESTIGATION OF THE YEAR AWARD
Operation proof of purchase - cvs orc team!!