A Brick couple stored a slew of stolen items in their home that they acquired through a loophole in a major big box store’s ordering system, authorities said Tuesday.
Romela Velazquez, 24, and Kimy Velazquez, 40, have been accused of exploiting weaknesses in the Lowes home improvement online website in order to have merchandise shipped to their Harding Drive home in Brick Township without payment.
Their arrests come as the result of an investigation by the Brick Township Police Department, with assistance from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigations Unit, said Al Della Fave, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office.
The investigation began after a Lowes Organized Retail Crime Manager brought the case to the attention of Brick Township police, alleging that Romela Velazquez purposely exploited weaknesses in their website in order to have merchandise shipped to her home in Brick Township without payment. Romela Velazquez then allegedly posted several of the stolen merchandise items to a local Facebook “Buy and Sell” page, often listing the items as “New In Box” and for less than half their original price.
County and local law enforcement executed a search warrant at the home Aug. 3. and recovered “enough stolen merchandise to fill a 18 foot trailer,” Della Fave said.
“Detectives on scene stated the residence resembled more of a warehouse than a home,” he added.
According to police, some of the bigger ticket items recovered new in box, or with their tags still on them, included:
- Stainless Steel Weber Grill
- Aluminum Gazebo
- Honda Lawn Mower
- LG Portable Air Conditioner
- Dewalt Power Washer
- Multiple Boxes of Ugg Shoes
- 70” Vizio LED Smart TV
- Sony Stero Surround Sound System with 4 Speakers
- Nikon D5000 Camera
- 3 Dyson Ball Vacuum Cleaners
- Multiple Boxes of furniture (not put together)
- Approximately $2,500 Victoria Secret Underwear
The culminating investigation led to Romela Velazquez being charged with second degree computer criminal activity for accessing a computer system with the purpose to defraud, second degree theft by deception for attempting to obtain merchandise totaling approximately $258,068.01 (pre-tax) and third degree theft by deception for the receipt of approximately $12,971.23 (pre-tax) worth of merchandise without payment. For his role in the alleged fraud scheme, Kimy Velazquez – Romela’s husband – was charged with third degree receipt of stolen property and third degree fencing.
In accordance with the revised New Jersey bail reform guidelines, Kimy Velazquez was charged and released on a summons pending a future court date. Romela Velazquez was taken into custody under the warrant issued and released on Aug. 4 after her first appearance hearing pending a future court date.
The investigation is continuing in an effort to identify other victimized retailers, which may result in additional charges, said Della Fave.