When a person steals merchandise that is for sale to the general public during business hours, they are committing retail fraud. Retail fraud also involves the act of attempting to get fraudulent refunds from a store or “price switching.” Retail fraud is considered a theft crime, such as larceny. This crime does require proof that the merchandise was stolen intentionally, meaning with an intent to steal.
Any person who changes the original price of any merchandise to that of a cheaper price or actually alters the price is thus guilty of retail fraud crime.
One particular method of committing the act of retail fraud is stealing from any store you may work at. Any employee who steals item(s) above a certain monetary value can face misdemeanor charges which may even result in a prison sentence. Each state has its own regulations and punishments based on the value for a misdemeanor and/or felony charge.
One of the more common retail fraud schemes involves a person claiming to have actually purchased merchandise from a retail store. They then attempt to return it in order to get more money back from the store in cash or a store credit. Another known method is when an item, such as a shirt or shoes, is intentionally stolen from the store. Any act that an outsider would consider stealing is likely considered retail fraud.
The act of committing retail fraud also applies to store managers and employees as well. An employee could also be charges with embezzlement for similar activity, for example extracting more money from a customer than the item’s price or trying to pocket money from the cash register.
In the state of Michigan, there are three different degrees of retail fraud. First Degree Retail Fraud is when more than $1000 is stolen. The punishment for this felony offense is up to 5 years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines or 3 times the merchandise’s value.
Second Degree Retail Fraud occurs when between $200 to under $1000 is stolen. The punishment for this offense consists of up to a year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine or 3 times the merchandise’s value.
Third Degree Retail Fraud is when under $200 is stolen. This misdemeanor is punishable with up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine or 3 times the merchandise’s value.
Anytime a person has been charged with a prior retail fraud, he or she can often be charged with the next highest retail fraud crime.
Additional to these penalties, a shoplifter can also be subject to civil penalties demanded by the store. This includes the full retail price or the unrecovered property in addition to any recovered property that is not in sellable condition. Civil damages up to 10 times the retail price but no less than $50.00 can also be demanded.
Shoplifting is considered a crime, and it is taken seriously when any merchandise is stolen from a retail store. While it may very well be considered by some to be a lesser form of theft, it can still result in stiff penalties including court costs, fines and fees, restitution, civil demand, probation, jail time, or prison.