ROBESON COUNTY — When thieves shoplift, we all pay the price in increased prices.
Detectives in Robeson County think they have stopped some very bold crooks who stole hundreds of dollars of equipment, but they are still looking for the ringleader.
They may have been shopping next to you, and you did not see it happen. Store security could not spot it either. But for two months, police say three people took thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from your favorite stores in two states.
"They come in as a group of people, get our service people over to one side of the store, then put it under their coat or in a box and take it out," said store manager Linday Fonvielle.
It happened more than once at theAgri-Supplystore in Lumberton. Police believe the three suspects stole 10 two way radios, 8 pressure washers and four generators from the store.
Investigators say the same three stole similar products from homes and other stores in Robeson, Cumberland and Columbus Counties and from stores in South Carolina.
"They went into the stores during normal business hours and stole the merchandise," said Major Jimmy Maynor of the Robeson County Sheriff's Office.
Robeson County investigators say they broke the major theft ring following a routine traffic stop. Police say with stolen property in the car, they arrested 43-year-old Roscoe Bell, out of jail only nine months, and 24-year-old Tammy Jones.
They are still looking for Bell's brother, Junior, who police say is the ringleader and out on bond from a theft charge in Cumberland County. Detectives say the trio is bold and not afraid of getting caught.
They say the three stole large quantities of merchandise then traded a product worth hundreds of dollars for as little as $50 worth of drugs.
"We've been told by one of the suspects that two of them have a $200 a day drug habit to crack cocaine, and the other has a $700 drug habit," said Det. Deryl Little of the Robeson County Sheriff's Office.
Police say the two suspects already behind bars are cooperating. They have recovered a great deal of the merchandise. The three suspects could be charged with up to 50 cases.