Florida law enforcement officers claim to have broken up a large organized crime ring after conducting two raids in the early morning hours last month. Twenty-three people have now been charged in what police say was an extensive shoplifting ring. So far 16 of the 23 have been placed under arrest.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office was one of several agencies involved in the investigation. Others included the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities say the ring targeted drug stores and shoplifted from them daily. The group would allegedly sell the stolen merchandise for about $1,000 per day. One of those arrested, a 53-year-old man, was allegedly the head of the organization. Authorities claim the group stole an estimated $15 million of store merchandise.

Theft charges can have far reaching consequences for those accused. The penalties if convicted include possible prison time or probation, as well as a criminal record. Those who are charged need to mount a serious defense.

Sometimes when law enforcement agencies make numerous arrests in connection with a single alleged criminal enterprise, innocent people are swept up in the net. But anyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent until the state meets its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. During the weeks and months leading up to trial, the job of defense counsel is to scrutinize all the evidence and look for any inconsistencies or gaps which indicate the prosecution will be unable to meet its burden of proof. When inconsistencies or gaps are found, they may lead to dismissal or reduction of the charges.

Source: local10.com, “23 charged in massive retail theft investigation,” Carlos Suarez, March 27, 2014

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