Florida Agriculture Department, Escambia County Sheriff Target Retail Theft Ring

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) announced this week that it teamed up with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office to take aim at a retail theft ring.

They announced they arrested an individual suspected to be involved with an organized retail theft ring operating in the greater Pensacola area and other states.

“As the state’s consumer services watchdog, know that our Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement will bring the full force of the law against anyone breaking the law and who targets Florida’s consumers and businesses,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “I am proud of the continued results produced by our investigators, officers, and partners that are helping shut down criminal operations in our state.”

FDACS OALE opened an investigation into reports by a national retailer that a retail theft ring had leased heavy equipment, removed the retailer’s identifiers from the equipment, and advertised the equipment for sale locally on internet sites.

On March 15, 2022, undercover OALE law enforcement investigators and Escambia Sheriff’s deputies met with a suspect in the investigation, later identified as Stephen Graves of Warren, Michigan, to purchase stolen equipment from him for $25,000. During the transaction, investigators located the stolen equipment and arrested Graves. He was booked into the Escambia County Jail on the following charges: Violation of Section 812.014 (2)(b), Florida Statutes, Grand Theft; Second-Degree Felony; 1 count. Violation of Section 812.019(2), Florida Statutes, Dealing in Stolen Property; First-Degree Felony; 1 count Violation of Section 817.5685(3)(a), Florida Statutes, Knowingly possess ID of another without consent; First-Degree Misdemeanor; 1 count. Violation of Section 817.034(4)(a) (1), Florida Statutes, Scheme to Defraud; First-Degree Felony; 1 count. Violation of Section 322.212(1), Florida Statutes, Possession of Fraudulent ID; Third-Degree Felony; 1 count. Graves’ bond was set at $221,000 dollars.

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