BRICK COUPLE TARGETS LOWES FOR UNPAID MERCHANDISE
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Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato and Brick Township Police Chief James Riccio today announced the arrest of Romela, 24, and Kimy, 40, Velazquez for exploiting weaknesses in the “Lowes” home improvement online website in order to have merchandise shipped to their Harding Drive home in Brick Township without payment.
Their arrests come as the result of an investigation by Brick Township Police Department, with assistance from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigations Unit. The investigation began after a Lowes Organized Retail Crime Manager brought the case to the attention of Brick Township Police, alleging that Romela Velazquez knowingly and purposely exploited weaknesses in their online website in order to have merchandise shipped to her home in Brick Township without payment. Romela Velazquez then allegedly posted several of the stolen merchandise items to a local Facebook Group “Buy and Sell” page, often listing the items as “New In Box” and for less than half their original price.
On 8/3/17, the partnering agencies executed a search warrant at the couple’s 142 Harding Drive Brick Township home in furtherance of their investigation and recovered enough stolen merchandise to fill a 18 foot trailer. Detectives on scene stated the residence resembled more of a warehouse than a home. Some of the bigger ticket items recovered new in box, or with their tags still on them were:
> Stainless Steel Weber Grill
> Aluminum Gazebo
> Honda Lawn Mower
> LG Portable Air Conditioner
> Dewalt Power Washer
> Multiple Boxes of Ugg Shoes
> 70” Vizio LED Smart TV
> Sony Stero Surround Sound System with 4 Speakers
> Nikon D5000 Camera
> 3 Dyson Ball Vacuum Cleaners
> Multiple Boxes of furniture (not put together)
> Approximately $2,500 Victoria Secret Underwear
The culminating investigation led to Romela Velazquez being charged with 2nd degree Computer Criminal Activity for accessing a computer system with the purpose to defraud, 2nd degree Theft by Deception for attempting to obtain merchandise totaling approximately $258,068.01 (pre-tax) and 3rd degree Theft by Deception for the receipt of approximately $12,971.23 (pre-tax) worth of merchandise without payment. For his role in the fraud scheme, Kimy Velazquez (Romela’s husband), was charged with 3rd degree receipt of stolen property and 3rd degree fencing.
In accordance with the revised New Jersey Bail Reform guidelines, Kimy Velazquez was charged and released on a summons pending a future court date. Romela Velazquez was taken into custody under the warrant issued and released on 8/4/17 after her first appearance hearing pending a future court date.
The investigation continues in an effort to identify other victimized retailers, which may result in additional charges. The media and public are reminded that criminal charges are merely accusations and that the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Follow the Office of the Ocean County Prosecutor online at Twitter and Facebook. The social media links provided are for reference only. The OCPO does not endorse any non-governmental websites, companies or applications.
For additional information visit our website at www.oceancountyprosecutor.org.