Press Release

Cracking Down on Organized Retail Theft: Fences Face Additional Prison Time

Sacramento, Calif. – Senate Bill 1416 (SB 1416), aiming to crack down on the organized resale of stolen retail merchandise, passed the Senate Public Safety Committee today with a vote of 5-0. The bill, authored by Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) and part of the larger “Safer California Plan,” takes aim at a critical aspect of the fight against organized retail theft: the middleman coordinating and profiting from the sale, exchange, or return of property acquired through acts of shoplifting, theft, or burglary from retail businesses.

Organized retail theft often involves coordination between individuals targeting specific, high-value merchandise like electronics, designer clothes, pharmaceuticals, baby formula and diapers, razor blades, and cosmetics. The stolen items find their way into online marketplaces, injuring and undercutting legitimate businesses and distorting the market.

SB 1416 creates enhanced penalties for those involved in the fencing of stolen goods secured through organized retail theft. As part of a conviction, additional time would be added to the resulting sentence, with progressively longer terms depending on the value of stolen goods.

Under its provisions, a person found guilty of operating a fencing operation to dispose of goods secured through organized retail theft will be sentenced to an additional term of one year in prison if the property value exceeds $50,000; two additional years if the value of the stolen property exceeds $200,000; three additional years if the value of the stolen property exceeds $1 million; and four additional years if the value of the stolen property exceeds $3 million.

“SB 1416 is an important next step in interrupting the steep rise in organized retail theft that we’ve seen over the past several years,” said Senator Newman. “The addition of another necessary and useful tool for law enforcement to use in the prosecution of the ringleaders and chief beneficiaries of large-scale organized retail theft will both better punish and more effectively deter those who would instigate the kinds of expansive schemes that we have increasingly been seeing in organized retail theft.”

In his committee presentation, Newman referenced as typical a recent case in Southern California where a couple and eight accomplices were arrested in connection with the theft of an estimated $8 million worth of beauty products from two leading specialty retailers. In addition to the scale of the operation, what made this bust especially noteworthy was the fact that while the stolen goods were being fenced out of the San Diego area, the vast majority of the merchandise being re-sold was originally stolen from stores in Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, and Marin Counties. The suspects recruited individuals and coordinated through social media and other electronic means. When the arresting officers searched the couple’s San Diego mansion, they found at least $400,000 worth of makeup still in its manufacturer packaging that had been stored, organized, and then prepared for imminent shipment to customers who had purchased it, at impressively discounted prices, on Amazon.

“Senator Newman is taking bold action to crack down on organized retail theft through SB 1416, and we’re grateful for his leadership,” said Senate President pro Tempore Mike McGuire (D-North Coast). “Californians want to feel safe in the communities they call home, and the Senate’s Safer California Plan will deploy desperately needed resources into all corners of California to help combat the fentanyl crisis and give law enforcement additional tools to help put a stop to community-based crime.”

SB 1416 sends a clear message that California is cracking down on profiting from the theft of retail goods. By disrupting the networks that drive the resale market, SB 1416 and the Safer California Plan will protect businesses, discourage criminal activity, and create a safer environment for retailers and consumers. SB 1416 now advances to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

To schedule an interview with Senator Newman, contact Brian Wheatley at 916.651.4029.


State Senator Josh Newman represents the 29th Senate District, which is comprised of portions of Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Bernardino County. The 29th District includes all or parts of the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Chino Hills, City of Industry, Cypress, Diamond Bar, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Placentia, Rowland Heights, Stanton, Walnut, West Covina and Yorba Linda. Senator Newman is a former United States Army officer, businessperson, and veterans’ advocate, and lives in Fullerton with his wife and daughter.