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Several people arrested in Tampa Bay retail theft sting

Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Several people were arrested following two investigations into retail theft in Hillsborough County.

Sheriff Chad Chronister held a news conference Tuesday to announce the results of the investigations, which were conducted in partnership between the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, FDLE and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office said several people have been charged with racketeering.

In June, investigators with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office received information about an organized theft ring operating out of Tampa.

This investigation resulted in the arrests of five people, including the alleged ringleader.

20-year-old Samya Harris, 35-year-old Pernell Bethell, 64-year-old Clarence Walters, and 42-year-old Ronald West are facing Racketeering and conspiracy charges.

Sheriff Chad Chronister said the ring leader, 39-year-old Lee York would pay them with crack cocaine to steal from various retailers. York is also facing Racketeering and conspiracy charges.

Inside the home York lived on Emma Street East, investigators found 50 unopened boxes of diapers, paper towels, and toilet paper.

In July of 2019, investigators started looking into another unrelated Cuban retail theft ring.

During this investigation, they used confidential information to set up the alleged ringleader, Jose Valdivia-Quinones who allegedly paid a confidential informant to steal items from various retailers so he could re-sell them.

Investigators were able to recover $180,000 worth of stolen goods from his home on Crest Avenue West, including more than 1,100 pairs of brand name shoes, more than 500 bottles of cologne, hair trimming razors, clothing, Michal Kors purses, and high end watches.

“He was almost running his own convenience store out of his own home,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.

The busts are part of an ongoing commitment to crack down on retail theft organizations.

“Retail theft is not a victimless crime. As a direct result of the actions of these criminals, directly relate to you paying more at the registers,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said her office would be going after these criminals.

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