A pastor who founded a halfway house is accused of abusing his authority and organizing a crime ring that stole at least $1.4 million from Home Depot, Florida officials say.
Robert Dell, 56, of St. Petersburg coordinated a shoplifting gang with family members and two others for years, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in an Aug. 7 press release. The group stole merchandise from Home Depots in Florida and resold it on an eBay account called “Annointed Liquidator,” according to the release. The account has now been closed.
“This pastor has clearly skipped the commandment—thou shalt not steal,” said Moody.
Dell is a pastor at The Rock Church in St. Petersburg and runs a shelter for people recovering from substance abuse.
“Dell claimed the crimes under threat of abuse and used the positions of pastor and halfway house founder to manipulate other vulnerable people into participating in the criminal scheme,” the release said.
The two people not related to Dell stole most of the merchandise, investigators said. They are accused of stealing from five to six stores a day and supplying the merchandise to Dell to be resold online.
Officials said the theft was committed at Home Depot locations in seven counties.
Dell is charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, trafficking in stolen property (organized), and extortion. He was also charged with drug possession, according to records from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. He is being held on $750,000 bond.
Dell’s 39-year-old wife and 72-year-old mother were charged as co-conspirators and are being held on $250,000 bond each.
A spokesman for Moody’s office said officials documented at least $1.4 million in losses during the six-month investigation. Home Depot puts the number at more than $5 million and suspects Dell’s scheme had been going on for more than 10 years.
Scott Glenn, Home Depot’s Vice President of Asset Protection, said in a statement from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, “Organized retail crime is a growing problem for retailers and The Home Depot is fighting it on all fronts. We are proud to partner with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in working together to prevent dangerous criminals from stealing from our stores.”
FDACS Commissioner Wilton Simpson was proud of the investigators who helped with the case.
“This operation sends a clear signal that Florida is relentless in our pursuit of justice and will not tolerate these criminal activities,” he said.
Moody’s Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange (FORCE) Taskforce was also involved in helping shut down the robbery gang.
“The Office of Statewide Prosecution has a nearly 100% conviction rate for organized shoplifting cases,” the Moody’s Office release said.
The Rock Church did not immediately respond to the McClatchy News request for comment on August 7.
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