How a Group of Shoplifters Made Off With Over $7 Million Dollars

A few CDs here, a pair of jeans there – maybe a cheap watch if an attendant isn’t being observant. These are the kinds of things most people would probably picture as items that are commonly the subject of shoplifting sprees. Often times though, it can be higher price items such as electronics, computer equipment, or high end toys. With the losses caused by shoplifting costing retailers millions and millions of dollars every single day security measures to prevent the loss of merchandise are more stringent than ever.

So surely a serial shoplifter would be caught before the damage they could due would get too severe, right? With the average shoplifter making off with merchandise valued at $129.12 it seems unlikely that all but the rarest of these criminals would have the skill – and good fortune – to make it too far into the four figures. Perhaps once in a blue moon a particularly crafty individual, or maybe a well organized group, could make off with ill gotten gains into five figures before store security, the authorities, and fate caught up with them.

One such team, three family members to be exact, were just apprehended on Wednesday by authorities after a lengthy career of lifting items from unsuspecting stores. And how long was the trio up to their scheme you ask? 3 months? A year? 5 YEARS? Try 10. Yes, this group managed to evade capture for an entire decade before they were finally caught. They were not even wanted until shortly before their apprehension.

Branko Bogdanov

Branko Bogdanov

Image Credit: chicagotribune

The length of time that they were up to no good is not the only surprise with this story however; they made off like the bandits they were as well – the merchandise they are accused of stealing has been valued at seven million dollars. They lived well, with a beautiful home in an affluent Illinois community.

The group took advantage of any item they could easily steal – toys, tablet readers, etc. — and then turned them into cash with the help of a fence. (Fences knowingly buy stolen goods from thieves at deeply discounted prices and resell them to unwitting consumers.) After the fence took his cut, the group made off with approximately $4 million dollars.

How exactly did they go this long and steal that much without anyone being any the wiser until recently? The mother would wear a large, flowing black dress that the group had modified to contain many compartments for the stolen goods to be hidden. While she was hard at work with this task, the father and daughter would cause some kind of distraction elsewhere in the store to divert the attention of store security, employees, and customers.

Things began to unravel for them when stores finally began to take notice of unusually high levels of shrinkage (industry jargon for stolen inventory) at certain stores all in the same geographic area. Two stores, Toys ‘R Us and Barnes & Noble, had their loss-prevention teams examine the issue and after searching eBay for items similar to the ones they were missing began to notice a correlation. It seems the family’s fence was using the online flea market as an easy conduit to unloading the merchandise with the hopes that no one would ever discover how they were acquired. Obviously, he did not count on the keen eye of these particular investigators.

The fence is cooperating with authorities who arrested the family this past Wednesday after they returned from a multi-state trip netting them more stolen goods. They have been charged with offenses that if found guilty will net them heavy fines and up to 10 years in prison.

Source: Hayes, NBC 2

School Bus Conversion So Cheap and Easy Any One Can Do It!

Entering the final semester of graduate school, Hank Butitta was in need of a project for his Master’s Thesis – and he needed one fast. Little did he know that it would lead him to create quite possibly the coolest school bus conversion you’ll ever see.

Hank had grown tired of seeing his fellow architecture students present ideas with little concept of how the materials could or would actually work when and if they actually became more than just an idea in their head. Too often they became too enamored with an idea, not grasping the physical space they were working with and the limitations that space entailed. So from that, Hank’s idea was launched: a converted school bus with an emphasis on modular design, where function and flexibility were priority.

school bus conversionWith just 15 weeks to make his idea a reality, there was no time to spare. The search for his yellow bus began and soon he had found it. For $3000, he was able to find an adequate subject for his work on Craig’s List. After factoring in the cost of needed improvements and materials, Hank spent an additional six thousand dollars bringing his renovation project to life. With such little space to work with, Hank’s need to maximize his bus’ functional choices and ease of flexibility were paramount. Everything that could have multiple purposes or configurations had to so the rolling home would be as livable as possible.

converted bus

schoolbus RVHank’s bus is cleverly decided into four zones (bathroom, kitchen, sleeping, and seating) which themselves feature modular components of 28 inches so everything can be easily interchanged. Every window bay, the center aisle, everything. He also made sure that all counter tops, storage areas, insulation, electrical, etc. would not block any of the windows. This would make for a beautiful sight on sunny days, when Hank could sit inside and enjoy panoramic views of the outside world all around him. Of course, there are times when privacy is necessary so the bus is equipped with drop down privacy screens.

Every step was taken along the way to keep costs for Hank’s project down – after all, during its construction he was still just a student – and by this point he planned to take a trip in his thesis project upon its completion. Reclamation of materials that were no longer wanted by others were a God send. His floor was once a basketball court. One would have no idea that the beautiful, glossy walkway was at one time the site of many on court battles if not for the still present three point line sweeping across from one side of the bus to the other.

modified school bus

school bus plansAt completion, the school bus conversion is simply just overflowing with cool, useful design features. Lighting is provided by recessed LEDs which are dimmable should the mood strike the bus’ inhabitants. Its original two emergency hatches were thoughtfully converted into skylights, should one feel the need to feel the wind in their hair as they travel down the interstate on the way to the next destination. The sleeping areas are brimming with possibilities for their arrangement. You can have two twins with a walkway in between, three twins side by side by side, an elevated full next to a sunk twin – whatever works for you!

There is simply too many innovative features in Hank’s converted bus to show them all here or depict in just a handful of pictures. Thankfully, Hank has provided numerous pictures of the bus and all of its various arrangements and features on his website. Take a look by visiting his site!

conversion RV plans

modifying a school bus

living in a bus

school bus conversion

Source: Hank Butitta, Justin Evidon

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Moron Fan Storms Court to Go After Opposing Coach

Last night, the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos defeated Hawaii 86 to 77. But the result of the game would not be the story of the night. With his team struggling mightily with six minutes remaining in the first half, Hawaii coach Gib Arnold was seething. His team already trailed by 14 points and the deficit was growing. So Coach Arnold, employed a common tactic among those in the coaching profession in an attempt to light a fire under his team and hopefully get them back in the game: he began working the refs.

Following a call against his team, Gib began laying into one of the referees working the night’s game and received the technical foul he certainly hoped would get his young team to wake up and play the way they were capable of. But as with any opposing arena, UC Santa Barbara is not a friendly place for visitors, especially angry ones.

While most fans restrained their anger to the side lines, one could not help himself. A thin floppy haired Santa Barbara fan, who will be referred to henceforth as “moron,” decided it was time to leap to action. Moron ran from his spot in the university’s student cheering section and made the short trip down the arena’s stairs to the court. Shockingly, there were no security personnel present court side.

With no one to restrain him, Moron’s anger led him further, continuing on to the court towards Coach Arnold. At first, he would go unnoticed as all those who belonged on the court were preoccupied with the technical foul call that had set off this embarrassing incident. But moron’s voice would be heard.

After navigating his way around the sea of large bodies on the court, Moron found his way to the puzzled coach. He attempted a light shove, put on his big boy pants and pretended to be tough, then unleashed a flurry of expletives. A Hawaii player, 6’8″ senior forward Christian Standhardinger stepped in between the two and pushed Moron away.

Ever the tough guy, Moron turned tail and ran, trying to save face by continuing to shout at Hawaii players and coaches and challenging them to fight. All this while retreating to the safety of the UC Santa Barbara student section of course.

Our story does not end here. While most would surely have a moment of clarity at this point and if not, certainly their friends would impart one, but apparently these young scholars were not playing with a full deck. Moron was finally reached by security, who led him back down to the court and out through the players’ tunnel where police awaited. Of course, he took advantage of the opportunity to further embarrass himself and cause his parents to consider changing their last name by engaging in another verbal altercation with an unnamed fan. Once again, not until he knew he was safe to run his mouth with no fear of physical repercussion.

While he may not have received the physical punishment he probably deserved, Moron will likely be paying for his mistake for years to come. You see, Moron was wearing a t-shirt indicating that he is a senior slated to graduate in just a few short months — should he be allowed to anymore that is. Under the UC Santa Barbara student code of conduct, he will go before a committee to determine what punishment is appropriate for his actions. With the university being embarrassed in news stories around the country, Moron’s punishment is likely to be severe and expulsion has been mentioned as a possibility.

Maybe next time he’ll think twice and reign in his machismo before he attempts another ill-advised solo court rushing.

What embarrassing fan behavior have you witnessed at sporting events? Tell us in the comments section below!

Source: ESPN, You Tube

court-1Image Credit: ESPN, You Tube

court-2Image Credit: ESPN, You Tube

court-3Image Credit: ESPN, You Tube

court-4Image Credit: ESPN, You Tube