Trio accused of organized crime; efficient shoplifting scheme


by Joe Arnold

Posted on March 20, 2013 at 4:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 20 at 6:41 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It might be called personal shopping with a criminal twist, but it came unwound Tuesday afternoon at Jefferson Mall in southern Jefferson County.

Three Jeffersonville, Indiana residents are charged with engaging in organized crime and theft by unlawful taking, accused of stealing items one had already fenced on the Internet.

Metro Police say when they arrested 22 year old Tyler Broy, 39 year old Tony Cooper, and 27-year-old Melissa Werblo, Cooper admitted to a scheme where he would list products on Craigslist, and after people agreed to buy them, he would shoplift the items to fill the order.

"I guess if you've already got a buyer, then going to steal the item when you probably know where you're going to go to steal it is a fairly convenient way to commit your crime," said Charlie Mattingly, the Better Business Bureau President/CEO in Louisville.

The arresting officer tells WHAS11 once Cooper was in custody, he admitted that it wasn't the first time the three had worked together to commit similar thefts.

According to the citations, JCPenney loss prevention personnel observed Broy acting as a lookout when Cooper took two KitchenAid electric mixers off the shelf, then carried them out of the store without making an attempt to pay for them.

The arrest reports say Werblo was waiting in a car outside and drove both men to the Sears store on the opposite end of the Mall where Cooper stole a Dyson vacuum cleaner and carried it to the car.

Mall security detained the suspects.  A subsequent police search of the car turned up other vacuums and items from the Elizabethtown Mall, according to the police reports.

It's a story that gives a whole new meaning to "merchandise pickup," and the "Just in Time" strategy employed by business owners to carry as little inventory as possible. 

The Better Business Bureau says it is also a warning to those looking for "too good to be true" deals on Craiglist.

"Obviously, if you do buy stolen merchandise from a place like that, you can usually end up losing the merchandise and losing your money," Mattingly said.

"Craiglist seems to have the most open sort of arrangement that lends itself to that," Mattingly said, "Maybe more than any other site."

The Better Business Bureau advises shoppers engaging in transactions with other individuals online to look for red flags, such as new merchandise still in box, people selling multiple items of the same thing still in the box and any offers that don't pass the "too good to be true" test.

Werblo was released overnight on her own recognizance and is due in court Thursday morning.

Broy and Cooper remained in jail Wednesday afternoon.
Cooper is also wanted on a warrant out of Clark County, Indiana. A check of his record shows nine previous arrests.  In fact, his theft arrest Tuesday came two years to the day after Cooper was charged with shoplifting at Oxmoor Center in Louisville.