The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has arrested 34 people in connection with a retail theft scheme.

  • Items stolen from Home Depot stores, sold to fences
  • Fences then re-sold items to public at about 30% of retail price
  • Fences used social media sites to advertise stolen property

Authorities were tipped off when they noticed a lot of brand new tools were showing up on social media sites for sale at low prices.

"So the detectives started taking a more in-depth look at where these tools were coming from," said Sheriff Chad Chronister.

Detectives worked in conjunction with Home Depot corporate security to target thieves who were stealing goods from their store and others and then reselling them to fences for almost 8 percent off retail. The fences would then sell the stolen goods to the public at about 30 percent off the retail price.

The Sheriff's office said the fences used social media sites like OfferUp, Let-Go and Facebook Marketplace to advertise the stolen property.

"Once this grew and became larger, they would actually call each other and say 'I have a customer looking for this. Can you have one of your guys steal this for me? I need a particular type of drill,' or whatever tool it was," said Chronister.

During the round-up, detectives seized cars, more than $90,000 in new merchandise, $30,000 cash, marijuana, and a stolen boat.

"It was pretty complex," said Patrick Fairley with Home Depot. "It took a lot of organization, a lot of time and procedures put in place to make this successful."

Chronister said the thieves would claim to be authorized dealers or they would tell people they bought items in bulk, enabling them to re-sell the items at such cheap prices. 

"I think a lot of it was greed driven," he said.