Attorney General Pam Bondi Friday proposed a plan intended to stop organized retail theft, which costs consumers higher prices as a result of businesses' losses.
The National Retail Federation estimates retailers lose more than $30 billion per year to retail theft, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers retail theft a "gateway crime" committed by major crime rings to fund other illegal activity.
In a typical retail theft scheme, criminals steal thousands of dollars worth of products over a period of time and often sell them at flea markets or online.
Attorney General Pam Bondi
State Rep. Ross Spano advanced House Bill 1173 and state Sen. Kelli Stargel posed Senate Bill 1404 to enhance the penalties and stiffen sentencing guidelines for an organized retail theft exceeding $50,000. The new organized retail theft charges would equal first-degree grand theft with a baseline sentence of 21 months in prison.
"Organized retail crime is a highly sophisticated operation that involves the large-scale theft of everyday consumer items by professional shoplifters," said Bondi. "The legislation will give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools needed to arrest and prosecute these individuals, so consumers don't have to bear the financial brunt of this illegal activity."
Millions of dollars are being stolen from businesses in Florida every year by organizing retail fraud.
"In order to crack down on this illegal industry, our laws against such offences need to be strengthened. I am excited to sponsor legislation that enhances the Florida Communications Fraud Act and to work with Attorney General Bondi in addressing this issue on behalf of Florida's businesses and consumers," said Stargel.
All organized schemes will have a five-year statute of limitations similar to the five-year statute of limitations placed on other theft charges.