Four people in Lancaster County are facing federal charges after a two-year law enforcement investigation reportedly revealed an intricate merchandise theft operation that targeted some of the nation’s largest retailers, including Walmart and Home Depot.
The suspects were arrested Sept. 4, following an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury, according to a statement from the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
Those charged, according to the sheriff’s office, are:
▪ Thomas Brice McManus, 64, of Rocky River Road
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
▪ Sharon Steele McManus, 65, of Rocky River Road
▪ Harold Scott McDonald, 30, of Wisdom Road
▪ Jimmy Lee Montgomery, 67, of Willie Usher Road
All four were placed in the Mecklenburg County Detention Center. As of Wednesday, only Thomas McManus remained in jail.
Each was charged with conspiracy to commit crimes against the United States, specifically interstate transportation of stolen property and interstate receipt of stolen property. The charge carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
As part of the scheme, a group of people known as “boosters” were stealing merchandise from large retailers including Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, CVS Pharmacy, Dollar General, Family Dollar and Harris Teeter, including from locations in North Carolina’s middle federal district, according to an indictment.
These “boosters” brought the merchandise into Lancaster County and sold it to the McManuses, McDonald and Montgomery – known as the “fences” in the operation – at a fraction of its retail value. The “fences” then sold the merchandise at a profit at locations in Lancaster County and elsewhere, the indictment states.
In March 2014, the McManuses purchased about $5,500 in stolen merchandise that included flat-screen televisions, power drills, packages of batteries and bulk packages of over-the-counter medication, court records show. The McManuses believed the two people they met with were prospective suppliers of stolen items but they were, in fact, confidential informants.
Montgomery made a similar transaction with confidential informants and a state officer in April 2015, during which he purchased about 1,600 items he believed were stolen, according to an indictment.
Confidential informants and undercover investigators using documented funds and merchandise provided by retailers engaged in transactions with the defendants, according to the statement. Several of these transactions resulted in the issuance of search warrants and the seizure of money and stolen property.
The “fences” knew the merchandise they purchased from the “boosters” had been stolen, taken or converted by fraud, the indictment states, adding that McDonald even sold some of the items at his place of business, the Dixie Food Mart.
“There is a tremendous amount of retail theft that occurs every day,” said Doug Barfield, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “When there’s a ready market for this type of stuff, it creates a problem for all of us and drives up prices in the store. It’s much more than somebody stealing a Snicker’s bar. It becomes a financial problem.”
The sheriff’s office stressed in the statement that the charges found in the indictment are accusations and the accused Lancaster County residents have not yet had a criminal trial.
Anyone with information about this or any other case should call the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office at 803-283-3388 or Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC or www.sccrimestoppers.com.