NRF honors efforts to fight retail crime

NEW ORLEANS — Recognizing that fighting retail crime is a collaborative effort, the National Retail Federation during its annual Loss Prevention Conference and Expo, the National Retail Federation honored six individuals that exhibited exemplary dedication and investigative skills in solving retail crimes.

NRF gave out its Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Award to the following people:

  • Kebharu Smith, assistant U.S. attorney, Department of Justice – Houston office;

  •  

  •  Armando Astorga, group supervisor of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Homeland Security Investigations;

  •  

  •   Juan Pagan, special agent, ICE – Homeland Security Investigations;

  •  

  •   Terry Muise, special agent, ICE – Homeland Security Investigations;

  •  

  •    Matt Wood, special agent, ICE – Homeland Security Investigations; and

  •  

  •  Georgina Cervantes, intelligence research analyst, ICE – Homeland Security Investigations.

The NRF said those awarded were involved in an investigation of organized retail crime in Houston back in July 2009, which targeted CVS/pharmacy and Walgreens stores in the area. Working together, organized retail crime investigators were able to conduct a joint surveillance operation with Immigration Customs Enforcement — part of Homeland Security Investigations — which uncovered a high-level fence operation based in Houston. The operation was led by a person who aggressively recruited and paid illegal immigrants to travel to pharmacies throughout the continental U.S. and steal over-the-counter medications and health and beauty products. Over the course of the investigation, federal agents and investigators found approximately $20 million worth of stolen retail merchandise had been illicitly purchased and sold, and more than 75 suspects were identified and linked to the operation.