Feds indict pair accused of renting equipment from WA home-improvement stores, selling it

A man and woman accused of leading a retail-theft scheme and stealing more than $800,000 in merchandise, including from home improvement stores in Western Washington, were indicted Wednesday. The two are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud and/or aiding and abetting wire fraud.

Jalen Amir Thomas, 27, and Armia Ta’Jae Timmons, 25, victimized 190 stores across 23 states, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington. The two are from southern California but are alleged to have stolen equipment from stores in Tacoma, Federal Way, Vancouver, Covington, Longview, Bothell, Everett, Redmond, and Seattle.

“Organized retail theft has exploded across the country, due in large part to the growth of an online resale marketplace,” stated US Attorney Nick Brown in the release.

Brown said that the co-conspirators allegedly hatched a plan to rent high-value construction equipment but not return it. The pair then sold the equipment at high discounts on e-commerce sites such as OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace, according to the news release. The plot to steal home improvement goods began as early as March 2022, according to the release.

Thomas and Timmons reportedly headed a group of thieves who traveled the United States to rent items. They primarily targeted jumping jack tampers and vibratory plate compactors, which typically cost between $1,500 to $2,000 each. The group used fake IDs and phone numbers to steal around 480 separate pieces of equipment in total, the news release states.

Thomas and Timmons appeared in the US Court in the Central District of California on Wednesday. Prosecutors will request the two be extradited to the Western District of Washington for arrangement.

Homeland Security Investigations is leading the investigation into the scheme.

Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for individuals, according to legal website FindLaw.

Originally published