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W.Va. man convicted of using shoplifters for resale scheme

CHARLESTON (AP) — A West Virginia man has been convicted of organizing a network of shoplifters, many of them addicted to drugs, to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in store merchandise that he then resold on the internet.

A federal jury convicted Nedeltcho Vladimirov of Cross Lanes, a native of Bulgaria, of three counts of money laundering and one conspiracy count after a three-day trial in Charleston, the U.S. attorney’s office for the southern district of West Virginia said in a statement Thursday.

Evidence at the trial showed Vladimirov acquired stolen goods and resold them for profit to unsuspecting buyers. Vladimirov paid a fraction of the stolen items’ worth, and many of the shoplifters used the cash to support their drug habits.

Prosecutors said among the stolen items he bought from shoplifters at a Cross Lanes gas station were high-end vacuum cleaners and tools. An investigation found Vladimirov sold more than 7,000 items on an online marketplace account and had more than $550,000 in sales over three years.

A federal search warrant executed at Vladimirov’s residence in February 2020 revealed that he had set up cleaning stations used to remove security devices and labels from boxes so that the items could not be traced, prosecutors said.

Among the agencies involved were investigators from Kroger, Target and CVS Pharmacy, the statement said.

Vladimirov, 53, faces up to 20 years in prison along with a forfeiture money judgment. Sentencing has been set for Nov. 18.

“The scale of this shoplifting scheme is extraordinary,” United States Attorney Mike Stuart said when Vladimirov was arrested in February.

“Nearly 4,000 items and nearly $400,000 in goods were stolen from retailers like Target, CVS and Kroger in approximately two years,” Stuart said in February. “Like many consumers, I shop at Kroger, CVS and Target. The volume of theft is almost unbelievable. Victims. Lots and lots of victims. Consumers. Insurers. Taxpayers. Even the shoplifters. Consumers pay a heavy toll for shoplifting schemes like this whether through higher prices for consumer goods or the loss of profitability and jobs by the retailers themselves.”

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