Upper Moreland police assist District Attorney in arrests of retail theft ring, 200+ felony charges across six counties

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and Upper Moreland Township Police Chief Andrew Block announced the arrests of Cuong Nam Ly, 33, and Chung Nam Ly, 31, both of Philadelphia, on more than 200 felony charges related to an organized retail theft ring operating in Montgomery, Bucks, Philadelphia, Delaware, Luzerne and Berks counties.

The joint investigation by the Montgomery County Detective Bureau’s Major Crimes Unit and the Upper Moreland Police Department began in November 2022. A review of loss prevention records from Home Depot and Lowes found that the Ly brothers were running an Organized Retail Theft Ring targeting the two retailers. The retail theft scheme involved purchasing products, in most cases online, then applying a higher-priced UPC code to the box and returning the item to the store to obtain the higher amount as a refund. Numerous other products were purchased and returned without a high-value battery or charger or were otherwise altered before being returned. Stolen items, such as the high-priced batteries and chargers, were then sold by the Lys and their co-conspirators on Facebook Marketplace for cash. The total loss to the retail stores in six counties was more than $200,000.

Search warrants for two locations being utilized by the organized retail theft ring produced numerous power tools and batteries for power tools including DeWalt power tools, NOCO jump starters and Vector jump starters, which already had the UPC barcode switched to show the item as being the higher-priced NOCO jump starters.

“These two defendants were operating a high-volume organized retail theft ring that caused the targeted businesses to suffer significant losses, both through the thefts themselves and through the loss of customers who bought stolen merchandise from the defendants via online marketplaces,” said DA Steele. “We are focused on Organized Retail Theft Rings as these criminal activities are a significant loss for any business to withstand on an ongoing basis.”

The investigation, which is ongoing, involved the Montgomery County Detective Bureau, Upper Moreland Township Police and Philadelphia Police with assistance from loss prevention units of Home Depot and Lowes. This criminal investigation included the use of physical surveillance, fixed surveillance, search warrants and undercover buys of stolen items.

Both Lys were arrested and charged with more than 200 felony counts of operating a Corrupt Organization, Conspiracy, Retail Theft, Dealing in the Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Organized Retail Theft, Theft by Deception, Receiving Stolen Property and related charges. The defendants were arraigned on Sept. 18, 2023, by Magisterial District Judge Edward Levine, who set bail at $75,000 unsecured, with the condition against trespasses on Lowes or Home Depot properties. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m., Oct. 13, 2023, before Magisterial District Judge Paul Leo.

The case will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Gabriella Glenning, Captain of the Major Crimes Unit.

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Photos: Montgomery County District Attorney Office