|TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a Cumberland County woman was sentenced to state prison today for leading an organized retail theft ring that shoplifted thousands of dollars in merchandise at stores in South Jersey, returning the items for gift cards, which were pawned for cash.
Chiara K. Pender, 30, of Millville, N.J., was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge John T. Kelley in Camden County. She pleaded guilty on March 10 to a second-degree charge of leader of an organized retail theft enterprise. She must pay full restitution for the losses sustained by the stores that were targeted.
Deputy Attorney General Christopher Keating prosecuted Pender and handled the sentencing hearing for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. The charges stem from an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Interstate Theft South Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice, assisted by loss prevention personnel from TJX Corporation, Lowes Corporation, and Target Corporation.
The theft ring targeted various stores in South Jersey, including Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Target, Walmart, Home Goods, Lowes, Kohls, Burlington Coat Factory and Rite Aid. Pender recruited people into the ring and usually drove the ring members to the targeted stores. The thefts followed a consistent pattern. Once at the targeted store, Pender and her co-conspirators shoplifted items and left the store. The ring members stole clothing, electronics, and anything else of value that could easily be concealed. Pender would subsequently order one of her co-conspirators to re-enter the store to make a non-receipted return of the stolen merchandise, or she would drive them to another location of the same chain store to return the items. If the return was accepted, the store issued a gift card for the value of the merchandise. The value of the gift cards ranged from just over $100 to more than $600. Pender sold the gift cards at pawn shops for cash, typically receiving approximately half of the value of the store credit on the card. The investigation revealed that from January 2016 through June 2016, Pender and her co-conspirators stole more than $20,000 from the targeted stores using these methods.
“Organized retail theft is a multi-billion dollar drain on the retail industry caused by criminals like Pender who methodically steal from popular store chains,” said Attorney General Porrino. “These thieves think the worst they’ll face is a low-level shoplifting charge, but this prison sentence reflects our resolve to ensure they face serious punishment. We’ll continue to work closely with the industry to prosecute these criminal enterprises aggressively.”
“Working with the New Jersey State Police and the employees of the victim companies, we shut down this retail theft ring and sent its leader to prison,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We want these thieves to know that we’re onto their tricks and will put them behind bars.”
“The losses that businesses suffer as a result of organized retail theft rings directly affect the everyday consumer, not just big businesses,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “This was an outstanding investigation by the State Police Interstate Theft South Unit and our partners, which led to this prison sentence for the ringleader.”
The State Police arrested Pender on June 3, 2016. Other members of the Pender’s theft ring were arrested in June and July of last year. Seven other members of the ring pleaded guilty previously. Thareick Archer, 26 of Vineland, N.J., was sentenced to 18 months in prison on May 26 on a charge of receiving stolen property. Mark O. Rabb III, 30, of Millville, N.J. was sentenced on April 7 to 30 days in the county jail on a charge of receiving stolen property. Five other defendants who pleaded guilty to charges of theft or receiving stolen property were each sentenced to three-year terms of probation.
Deputy Attorney General Keating and former Deputy Attorney General Brian Carney prosecuted the defendants for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Andrew B. Johns. Attorney General Porrino commended all of the attorneys, detectives and investigators who handled this case for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, the New Jersey State Police Interstate Theft South Unit, and the loss prevention departments of TJX Corporation, Lowes and Target.
Defense Attorney: Margeau Ney, Esq., Haddon Township, N.J.
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