FLORIDA—The leader of an organized theft ring that allegedly stole heavy rental equipment from Home Depot stores across several counties in Florida has been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay restitution, Attorney General Ashley Moody has announced.
Moody said her Office of Statewide Prosecution (OSP) secured an eight-year prison sentence and restitution order for Byron Johnson, who Moody said operated a theft ring in Polk County and 14 other Florida counties, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to Home Depot stores.
Johnson’s prison sentence will be followed by five years of probation. He was ordered to pay $539,360 in restitution.
“This ringleader’s organized theft operation spanned 15 counties in the state, causing losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Home Depot stores,” said Moody.
“Thanks to our Statewide Prosecutors, this criminal will now serve nearly a decade in prison and pay more than $500,000 in restitution.”
Earlier this year, Moody’s OSP, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they shut down a massive, organized retail theft ring run by Johnson. An investigation reportedly showed that Johnson and four other defendants went to Home Depot stores across the state, renting heavy equipment and destroying the attached GPS tracker in order to resell the stolen items online.
The investigation showed at least 44 suspected thefts during the time frame of the investigation. To complete the scheme, the defendants are said to have used stolen identifications, as well as misleading unsuspecting individuals to use the identifications to complete the equipment rentals.
The defendants reportedly sold most of the stolen items on Facebook Marketplace.
OSP charged Johnson with one count of grand theft, more than $100,000, a first-degree felony; one count of scheme to defraud, a third-degree felony; nine counts of dealing in stolen property, all second-degree felonies; and unlawful possession of the personal identification information of another person, a third-degree felony.
OSP charged four other defendants with grand theft of varying amounts, ranging from first to third-degree felonies. These cases are still pending.