Tough Luck: Crime Fighter Bumps Into Retail Theft Suspect In Casino

on June 29 2012 3:03 PM
Sami Elias
Sami Elias has at least three mugshots, two pending court dates and one arrest and extradition on his record, according to Florida police. This includes two arrests inside casinos. His alleged crimes: stealing over-the-counter drugs in bulk from Florida CVS and Walgreens outlets using a so-called booster bag, which is lined with metal to thwart in-store electronics sensors. He's posted at least $17,000 in bonds in the past year. Mugshots from Florida police.

Sami Elias's luck ran out in a New Orleans casino. 

Unbeknownst to the 54-year-old Kentucky resident, gambler and accused grand theft shoplifter, just a short walk away from the slot machines and poker tables of Harrah's Casino was a veritable who's who of anti-theft officials for some of the largest U.S. retail chains gathering for the annual loss-prevention convention of the National Retail Federation (NRF).

One of those anti-theft officials was Tony Sheppard, nationwide manager for combatting organized retail crime for CVS Caremark Corporation (NYSE: CVS). Sheppard had arrived in town on June 19 and headed over to the casino on the city's famous Canal Street for a little pre-convention R&R.

As luck would have it, that's where Sheppard spotted Elias.

Confident that the suspect had active warrants, Sheppard called Brendan Dugan from Walgreens to confirm, a blog post on the National Retail Federation's website said. Dugan, who was also in town for NRF's conference, verified that, yes, the arrest warrant for this booster was still active but they needed law enforcement to confirm.

Sheppard and Dugan reported the sighting to the Louisiana State Police, who arrested Elias on an outstanding warrant from Daytona Beach, Fla., on two counts of grand theft. Elias, who has allegedly been vexing CVS and Walgreen Company (NYSE: WAG) retail outlets in Florida, was booked in Orleans Parish at about 12:30 pm on June 19 and later extradited to Florida. On Thursday he was booked Thursday night at the Volutia County Correctional Facility in Florida. A representative of the jail said Elias posted $10,000 bond and was released.

His whereabouts are unknown.

This month's casino episode isn't the serial suspect's first run-in with the law. He was arrested June 20, 2011, in Boynton Beach, Fla., after a CVS loss-prevention officer said he witnessed Elias shoveling products into a metal-lined bag designed to avoid tripping in-store electronic sensors. In his car were unopened boxes of Rogaine and other products in trash bags. He posted a $5,000 bond and was released.

And then a couple of months ago, he popped up on law enforcement radar again. On May 6, Elias was arrested by Seminole Indian  Reservation Police at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Fla., on third-degree grand theft. He posted $2,000 bond and was released. A sheriff's office representative said Friday that Elias faces a court date in that case.

The NRF estimated that the annual cost stock shrinkage linked mostly to theft costs the retail industry at least $15 billion a year. According to the U.K.-based Centre for Retail Research's Global Theft Barometer, organized retail crime -- including serial bulk shoplifting -- costs American consumers at least $425 a year in added cost to products to make up for the losses. 

The New Orleans loss prevention convention that Sheppard was attending focused on coordination among companies and local and national law enforcement to combat crimes like the ones Elias is accused of committing.

Both CVS and Walgreen declined to comment on their run-ins with Elias.