Attorney General Schneiderman announces takedown of massive organized theft ring

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Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday the indictment of 12 alleged members of a massive criminal theft and fencing ring that infiltrated 28 states including New York.

A 41 count indictment charged the 12 alleged co-conspirators with enterprise corruption, money laundering, criminal possession of stolen property, and conspiracy. If convicted, each of the defendants could face between eight to twenty five years behind bars.

“As we allege, this brazen ring of criminals methodically stole millions from stores across 28 states – resulting in one of the largest-ever busts of a retail theft ring,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

The ring was brought down by “Operation Sticky Fingers,” a ten month investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force. With the support of the New York State Police, law enforcement seized more than 5,300 stolen electronics and ink cartridges from the ring’s alleged kingpin Richard Rimbaugh, alleged theft crew manager George Athanasatos, and various alleged members of the theft crews. In addition, investigators seized more than $7.7 million dollars from the defendants’ homes, financial institutions, and Amazon and PayPal merchant accounts.

The Attorney General’s investigation alleges that Rimbaugh has been directing theft crews and reselling stolen merchandise for over 20 years. Since 2012 alone, the ring has sold more than $12 million of stolen goods via Amazon and eBay internet marketplace.

The report alleges that Rimbaugh, known to the members of the enterprise as the “General,” instructed several theft crews to steal specific printer ink cartridges, computer software, and other consumer retail electronics based on his ability to resell those stolen goods on Amazon and eBay. He would then dictate the price that the theft crews would receive for the stolen merchandise, typically paying 30 to 50 percent of the retail value.

Rimbaugh then allegedly resold the stolen merchandise on the internet through his illegitimate business, American Media Soft, which he operated out of his Manhattan apartment. At this location, Rimbaugh received, sorted, catalogued, and shipped the stolen merchandise for resale.

The investigation alleges that George Athanasatos, known as the “Field Marshall,” reported directly to Rimbaugh and managed three of Rimbaugh’s four theft crews. He managed the day-to-day operations of the ring and, along with Rimbaugh, dispatched the three theft crews on missions to various regions of the country and remotely managed their progress.

The theft ring would allegedly target retail locations such as Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy. Crews would then infiltrate the stores wearing custom made vests known as “bazookas.” The vests, when worn under normal clothing, can conceal large amounts of merchandise. When departing the stores, the crews allegedly used “kryptonite” devices to deactivate security alarms at store exits, as well as short-wave radios, which made it easier for the crews to eavesdrop on store security in order to warn one another about the presence of security or law enforcement.

Rimbaugh and Athanasatos’s alleged theft crews each consisted of two or three members, who each had specific roles.”  The “Captain” served as the crew leader and was responsible for managing and directing the “Lieutenant” and the “Sergeant” while on a mission.  The crews systematically traveled across the country, at the direction of Rimbaugh and Athanasatos, who issued credit cards to the crews to cover expenses such as flights, car rentals, and hotels.

The complete list of defendants includes:

Richard Rimbaugh, a/k/a “The General,” 64, Fence of the Enterprise, New York, NY
George Athanasatos, a/k/a “The Field Marshall,” 62, Manager, Brooklyn, NY                          
George Rapatsouleas, a/k/a “Skipper,” a/k/a “Nipplehead,” 31, Captain, Brooklyn, NY
Krissylee Harris, a/k/a “Princess,” 35, Lieutenant, Brooklyn, NY                             
Nusret Srdanovic, a/k/a “Monte,” 23, Sergeant, Brooklyn, NY
Roger Ringhiser, a/k/a “Captain Rog”, 53, Captain, Long Beach, NY
Frank Albergo, 59, Lieutenant, Oviedo, FL
Kevin Cerrato, 22, Sergeant, Elmont, NY
Gregory Anastasiou, a/k/a “Captain Frank”, 38, Captain, East Stroudsburg, PA
Joseph Pooler, a/k/a “Baby Arm Johnson”, 41, Sergeant, Stroudsburg, PA
Robert Scarano, a/k/a “Reno”, 56, Captain, Las Vegas, NY
Giovanna Bonello, 28, Lieutenant, Staten Island, NY

Members of the criminal enterprise are set to be arraigned before New York Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley beginning Wednesday.

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