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Alleged shoplifters used ‘double cart’ scheme at HD

BY Brae Canlen

Two New York men have been arrested and accused of stealing $257,000 from Home Depot stores in an elaborate shoplifting scheme involving two shopping carts containing identical items.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Renauld Medard and Wesly Diedonne, both of Brooklyn, N.Y., defrauded the home improvement retailer by making fraudulent returns at various Home Depot stores throughout the United States. From July 2009 through November 2011, the suspects are accused of running a “double-dipping” scheme under the following scenario:

Medard and Diedonne routinely made purchases of various items from Home Depot locations in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. They would allegedly assemble two shopping carts containing identical items. Leaving one cart of merchandise stashed in a location in the store ("Cart 2"), Medard and Diedonne purchased the identical set of items contained in the other cart ("Cart 1"). They would typically purchase the items in Cart 1 using cash, credit cards, fraudulently obtained store credit or a combination of the three, according to prosecutors.

Medard and Diedonne would then leave the store with the items in Cart 1, as well as the receipt issued by the store for the purchase, leaving Cart 2 inside the store.

Medard and Diedonne would return to the store almost immediately with a receipt corresponding to the items in Cart 1 and retrieve Cart 2, containing items identical to those in Cart 1. Under the guise that they had forgotten to purchase an item, usually an inexpensive one, Medard and Diedonne would return to the register with Cart 2, and purchase only the one additional small item, investigators claim. They would present the receipt for the items previously purchased from Cart 1 in the prior transaction and attempt to deceive the cashier into believing that the items in Cart 2 had already been purchased.

Medard and Diedonne would later go back to the same Home Depot store or traveled to different Home Depot store locations to return the items. In some instances, Medard and Diedonne presented a receipt in order to effectuate the return. In other instances, defendants Medard and Diedonne obtained a refund for store credit without presenting a receipt, according to law enforcement authorities.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office believes that the suspects carried out the scheme hundreds of times at various Home Depot locations in numerous states, fraudulently obtaining Home Depot store credit and refunds totaling at least $257,462.95. The estimate is based on, among other things, the purchase receipts, return receipts, video surveillance tapes and the identification information submitted in connection with non-receipted refunds.

The U.S. Secret Service aided in the investigation, and the defendants have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They were scheduled to make their initial court appearances on Dec. 19 in a Newark, N.J., federal court.

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Menards pulls back again, citing economy

BY Brae Canlen

Home improvement retailer Menards is postponing its plans to enter the Kansas City market over concerns that “economic conditions will worsen,” according to an article in The Kansas City Star.

Company spokesman Jeff Abbott told the newspaper the Eau Claire, Wis.-based company will not be building planned units in Belton, Mo.; Kansas City Northland and Overland Park, Kan. 

In a statement, Abbott said: “We are postponing building these stores. The concern we have is that economic conditions will worsen and that the federal government will impose more and more restrictions on business going forward, which is very discouraging. If one or both of these things happen, investing in new stores is foolhardy. Hopefully we’re wrong. If and when economic conditions improve, and if we survive the fiscal cliff and all that, we hope to be able to reconsider.”

Last week, Abbott told the newspaper that Menards was postponing plans for an Independence, Mo., store, as well as another one planned for the St. Louis area. He also told KMOV, a Missouri television station, that the retailer decided not to open a store in O’Fallon, Mo., because of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.

"We are on schedule to open our new stores in O’Fallon, Ill., and St. Peters, Mo., this spring 2013," Abbott said in the TV interview. "For O’Fallon, Mo., I’m very sorry, but we are a family-owned business, and with the Obama administration scaring the dickens out of all small businesses in the USA at present, we have decided not to risk expansion until things are more settled.”

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Existing-home sales pick up the pace

BY Ken Clark

Data from the National Association of Realtors show existing-home sales rose 5.9% in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million — the highest rate since November 2009.

The rate shows an increase over the downwardly revised pace of 4.76 million in October. The November rate is also 14.5% higher than the 4.40 million-unit pace set in November 2011.

"Momentum continues to build in the housing market from growing jobs and a bursting out of household formation," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "With lower rental vacancy rates and rising rents, combined with still historically favorable affordability conditions, more people are buying homes. Areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy show storm-related disruptions, but overall activity in the Northeast is up, offset by gains in unaffected areas." 

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $180,600 in November, up 10.1% from November 2011. This is the ninth consecutive monthly year-over-year price gain, which last occurred from September 2005 to May 2006.

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