CENTRAL FLORIDA, Fla. (970 WFLA.com)- As a result of a cooperative investigation between several central Florida retail loss prevention teams and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, detectives have arrested the following people:
In April 2013, Polk County Sheriff's Office detectives developed 35-year-old Malynda Ford of Lakeland as a suspect possibly involved in an organized retail theft ring operating in Polk County and surrounding counties after she had been observed by the Beall’s Loss Prevention team in several Beall's stores acting suspiciously. Ford has been previously arrested numerous times for retail theft.
Detectives began an in-depth investigation, conducting surveillance and determining other suspects who may be involved with Ford regarding retail thefts. Over the course of the investigation, Ford was observed and video recorded stealing merchandise from numerous department store chains to include Beall's Stores and Outlets, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Stein Mart, and Winn Dixie. She often uses other individuals to drive her to the stores because her driver’s license has been suspended.
Investigators determined that Ford usually selects multiple items such as clothing and perfume, then conceals the items beneath her clothing and leaves the store without paying for the items. Ford and her associates would then either return the stolen merchandise for store merchandise return cards or would sell the merchandise to others.
Of the 16 suspects arrested during this operation, 9 are receiving government assistance to include food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), disability and cash assistance. The approximate total monthly benefits being received by the suspects are $5,400.