$100,000 of goods were stolen from Home Depots across Florida in an organized self-checkout barcode switching scheme, the state’s attorney general says

Three people are facing grand-theft charges after more than $100,000 of goods were stolen from the Home Depot stores in Florida by swapping out the barcodes for those of lower-cost items at self-checkouts, the state’s attorney general said.

In a news release Monday, Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution said it filed criminal charges against three people, alleging that they carried out a “fraudulent barcode-switching scheme” as part of an organized retail-theft ring.

The office said its investigation found that across 25 occasions between January 2021 and March 2023, Vicky Popat, Christopher Abad, and Christopher Eduardo Baglin switched barcodes on a total of 281 buckets of Henry 887 Tropi-Cool roof sealer for the barcodes on Henry 345 premixed floor patch in Home Depot stores in South and Central Florida.

On the Home Depot’s website, the roof sealer retails at $120 for a 0.9-gallon bucket or $350 for a 4.75-gallon bucket. The floor patch, meanwhile, costs $10.75 for a quart or $32 for a gallon.

Investigators say that on the days the group carried out the scheme, they typically stole from two or three stores and switched the barcodes of between four and 16 buckets per transaction.

The Office of Statewide Prosecution charged Popat with one count of grand theft over $100,000, and Abad and Baglin with one count of grand theft over $20,000. All three were charged with one count of scheming to defraud over $20,000.

“Florida is a law-and-order state, and we are dismantling organized retail theft rings,” Moody said in the release. “Now, this group faces our Statewide Prosecutors and time in prison, where I can promise there is no self-checkout line.”

Retailers are scrutinizing the role of self-checkout amid concerns that the technology is leading to higher levels of shrink, the industry term for missing and damaged stock. In some cases it is accidental — customers forget to scan an item or select the wrong product in error — but other times it’s intentional.

Some retailers are cutting back on their use of self-checkout as a result. Target is limiting the hours it operates its self-checkouts in some stores, while the Midwest grocery-store chain Schnucks is restricting its self-checkout lanes to customers buying 10 items or fewer.

The Home Depot has both staff and technology initiatives in place to deter thieves and is working closely with law enforcement and federal and state task forces, Evelyn Fornes, the retailer’s senior manager of public affairs, told Business Insider.

“Our initiatives are progressing, but it’s still a significant pressure on our associates, our stores and our balance sheet,” she said.

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Grace Dean