Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

“Consumerist: “Baby Arm Johnson” and Two Others Plead Guilty to Parts in $12M Retail Theft Ring”

September 28, 2017

As published by Consumerist, on September 27, 2017.

If you’re going to be involved in a massive, nationwide retail theft scheme, you might as well have a good nickname — like “Baby Arm Johnson” or the “Field Marshall” — for when you get caught. 

We didn’t just make those names up. Those are the actual aliases of two men — George Athanasatos (aka the Field Marshall), and Joseph “Baby Arm Johnson” Pooler — who pled guilty for their part in an organized theft ring that pilfered $12 million in electronics and ink cartridges from stores in 28 states. A third man, Robert Scarano also pleaded guilty, but since he doesn’t have a cool alias, he gets bottom billing.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced today an update to a joint investigation by his office’s Organized Crime Task Force and the New York State Police that led to the bust of one of the largest-ever organized retail theft rings.

The investigation, which lasted for 10 months and was code-named “Operation Sticky Fingers,” culminated in the indictment of 12 alleged members in March, now three of those individuals have pleaded guilty.

The Ring

According to the AG’s office, the operation worked by stealing millions of dollars in merchandise – including electronic goods and printer cartridges – from Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, and other retailers across 28 states for more than 20 years.

The agencies allege that organization leader Richard Rimbaugh instructed several theft crews — which consisted of two to three men — to steal specific products based on his ability to resell the stolen goods on Amazon and eBay through his illegitimate business, American Media Soft.

In all, the theft rings would steal from a series of retailers on a daily basis.

Rimbaugh would then receive the goods at his apartment where they were sorted, catalogued, and shipped for resale.

The products were typically resold for between 30% and 50% of the retail value. Since 2012 alone, the ring has sold more than $12 million of stolen goods via Amazon and eBay, the AG’s office alleges.

Through the investigation, authorities were able to recover more than 5,300 stolen electronics and printer cartridges, as well as $7.7 million.

“Retail theft is not a victimless crime. Ultimately, consumers pay higher prices while the perpetrators of these schemes cash in,” New York AG Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

The Pleas

The AGs office notes that three members of the ring submitted guilty pleas today.

“Field Marshall” Athanasatos pleaded guilty to attempted enterprise corruption, criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree, and money laundering in the second degree.

Athanasatos reported directly to kingpin Rimbaugh and managed three of the four theft crews that delivered stolen merchandise.

He also allegedly managed the day-to-day operations of these three theft crews, dispatching them to various regions of the U.S. to conduct the thefts.

He will be sentenced to 3 ½ to 7 years in prison and will forfeit $439,204.88 in illegal proceeds, according to the AG’s office.

“Baby Arm Johnson” and Scarano — both of whom led theft crews responsible for dozens of heists — also entered guilty pleas to enterprise corruption.

Scarano will receive a sentence of two to six years in prison, while Pooler will be sentenced to one to three years.

Four members of this operation had already entered guilty pleas on enterprise corruption charges. There are five defendants — with nicknames like “The General,” “Skipper,” and “Captain Frank” — still facing charges.