Michigan Cracks Down on Organized Retail Crime

Sen. Jim Runestad’s legislation to penalize organized retail crime under the state’s racketeering statute was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“Criminals at the top of these organized mobs and rings will now be held accountable, not only for retail theft but also for coercing youth and other vulnerable individuals to commit organized retail crimes on their behalf,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “We’ve all seen video after video showing the perpetrators bursting into businesses with hammers, bags, and other accessories to commit robberies in a highly organized manner — shoplifting has blown up into a multi-billion industry across America and Michigan is not immune from this alarming trend.

“The criminal rings organizing this activity take advantage of the very poor, drug addicted, and human trafficked individuals to steal high-value items from retail stores — they put innocent customers and store employees in unnecessary danger — and they must be stopped.”

The Organized Retail Crime Act

Michigan’s Organized Retail Crime Act, which was passed in 2012, prescribed felony sentencing for organizing, supervising, financing or assisting another person in committing organized retail crimes. Senate Bill 691, now Public Act 174 of 2022, adds organized retail crime to the state’s racketeering statutes — which include other crimes, such as drug trafficking, extortion and prostitution — and allows law enforcement to pursue enhanced criminal penalties against individuals who solicit or conspire to commit these offenses regardless of the value of the stolen property.

PA 174 gained wide bipartisan support in the Legislature and also had the backing of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa A. Hammoud, Michigan State Police, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Target, and The Home Depot.

The first conviction and sentencing for the offense of organized retail crime occurred recently in Kent County. In March, the new theft law went into effect and moved certain theft crimes from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The Purpose

The aim of the law is purportedly to go after organized networks of criminals who steal goods from stores and then resell them easily on the internet through Craigslist or eBay. Law enforcement may use the new stiffer charge against those who organize or supervise a theft and resale operation. However, planning to steal and sell a video game would also trigger the stiffer charge.

Conspiring to sell or receive merchandise that a person knows or believes to be stolen also would fall within the new charge. Someone who agrees to pick up a bag might face prosecution for organized retail crime if the person knew or had reason to believe the bag contained stolen goods.

The stiffer felony charge carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. In addition, a person found guilty might also have to pay restitution to the retailer.

Aggressive Representation

White Law PLLC has extensive experience with a variety of complex criminal cases including felony charges. Our attorneys can help you protect your freedom and your rights in the criminal justice system.

Contact White Law PLLC today for more information.