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Renton man gets five years in prison for role in retail theft ring of home improvement stores
A 42-year-old Renton man, who helped lead a retail theft ring that targeted home improvement stores, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to five years in prison and ordered to pay more than $170,000 in restitution for wire fraud and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Altor Hollingsworth led a theft ring that targeted Lowe’s, Home Depot and Wal-Mart stores across the West, including Washington, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office media release. The schemers combined shoplifting with forged documents to steal significant sums from the retailers.
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik told Hollingsworth you were “the fulcrum of the entire operation.”
According to records filed in the case and testimony at trial, Hollingsworth led a group of as many as 22 people who systematically defrauded big box retailers.
For example, members of the ring would steal items, such as expensive faucets, from Lowe’s stores by placing them in large boxes for sinks or toilets. The conspirators would leave the store paying only the lower price for the sink or toilet. In the ensuing weeks, members of the conspiracy would return the stolen items to different Lowe’s stores throughout Arizona, Oregon, California, Oklahoma and Washington in exchange for gift cards.
Members of the conspiracy then sold the gift cards for cash. The ring caused more than $100,000 in losses to Lowe's. In order to return Lowe’s items without a receipt, the conspirators used altered drivers licenses – changing one letter in the name and license number – so that the stores fraud detection systems would not be triggered with the multiple returns.
But Lowe’s security was able to detect the activities of the ring and worked with the U.S. Secret Service and King County Sheriff’s Office detectives to investigate their activities. Similar schemes were used to steal from Home Depot and WalMart.
Seven people were indicted in May in connection with the ring. Hollingsworth was the ring leader and involved in the vast majority of fraudulent returns. Over a period of six years, he benefited the most from the fraud scheme. Additionally, at the time of his arrest on May 23, law enforcement found a firearm in his home. He was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to prior convictions for felony domestic violence and violating a no-contact order.
Hollingsworth has a lengthy history of violence against women including 11 convictions relating to assault or domestic violence between 1992 and 1998. In all, he has 40 criminal convictions in the last 24 years.
In asking for a significant sentence, prosecutors highlighted Hollingsworth's leadership role – involving others in his crime.
“Over the course of defendant’s life, he has demonstrated a greed and selfishness that have dictated his actions, regardless of the consequences those actions held for others," prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo. "The defendant recruited his son, his girlfriends and his other family members into his fraud without any regard for their well-being."
Hollingsworth was ordered to pay $138,690 in restitution to Lowe’s, $19,226 in restitution to WalMart, and $15,596 in restitution to Home Depot.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force.