YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A West New York man admitted today that he was the mastermind behind a crew of retail theives who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from 70 Home Depot stores in New Jersey and elsewhere.
Julio Arriola Suarez — AKA: Jimmy R. Alcivar — pleaded guilty today to a second-degree shoplifting charge that exposes him to as much as four years in state prison, under a deal with state prosecutors. Sentencing: Dec. 14.
Suarez was arrested on April 3 in Jersey City after an investigation by the state Division of Criminal Justice and the U.S. Secret Service uncovered the ring.
Authorities said the crew stole the merchandise by “under-ringing” expensive items through self-checkout areas with other tags. In some cases, other ring members would distract store employees, they said.
Investigators already had scooped up three other members of the ring, all of whom have pleaded guilty and are looking at prison time:
Their sentencings have been held off until authorities could secure the guilty plea from Suarez. Otherwise, they could have testified against him at trial in exchange for leniency.
Amid congratulations for the cooperation between state and federal authorities, officials pointed out another valuable asset:
“These investigations often depend heavily on store records and personnel, so we count on strong cooperation from the industry, as exemplified by Home Depot in this case,” said Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice.
A fifth man who was charged in April — Nicolas Arriola Cortez, 49, formerly of Union City — remained a fugitive and was being sought on a warrant.
The ring members are all originally from Central and South America, authorities said.
Pulgarin is a naturalized U.S. citizen, but the others are not U.S. citizens.
As a result, Suarez, Piza and Barahona could potentially face deportation on the charges.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had previously filed a detainer against Barahona in connection with a drug conviction in New York State.
The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Rappa and Detective Sgt. Louis Matirko.
N.J. Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa thanked the Secret Service Newark Field Office, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Newark, as well as the Central Investigation Team of Home Depot Corporation, the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, the Lehigh County (Pa.) District Attorney’s Office and the West New York, Dover, Union Township and Whitehall (Pa.) police departments.