A pastor who founded a halfway house is accused of abusing his authority and organizing a crime ring that stole at least $1.4 million from Home Depot, Florida officials say.
Robert Dell, 56, of St. Petersburg coordinated a retail theft ring with family members and two others for years, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in an Aug. 7 news release. The group stole merchandise from Home Depots in Florida and resold it on an eBay account called “Annointed Liquidator,” according the release. The account has since been shut down.
“This pastor clearly skipped over the commandment — thou shall not steal,” Moody said.
Dell is a pastor at The Rock Church in St. Petersburg and runs a halfway house for those recovering from substance abuse.
“Dell demanded the crimes under threat of abuse and used the positions of being a pastor and founder of a halfway house to manipulate other vulnerable people to participate in the criminal scheme,” according to the release.
The two people not related to Dell stole most of the merchandise, investigators said. They are accused of stealing from five to six stores a day and delivering the merchandise to Dell to be resold online.
Officials said the theft ring shoplifted from Home Depot locations in seven counties.
Dell faces felony charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering, dealing in stolen property (organized) and racketeering. He was also charged with drug possession, according to records from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. He is being held on bond of $750,000.
Dell’s 39-year-old wife and 72-year-old mother were charged as co-conspirators and are being held on bond of $250,000 each.
A spokesperson from Moody’s office said during the six-month investigation, officials documented at least $1.4 million in losses. Home Depot places the number at upwards of $5 million and suspects Dell’s scheme had been ongoing for more than 10 years.
Scott Glenn, Home Depot’s Vice President of Asset Protection, said in a statement from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: “Organized retail crime is a growing problem for retailers, and The Home Depot is fighting it on all fronts. We’re proud to partner with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to work together to stop dangerous criminals from stealing from our stores.”
FDACS Commissioner Wilton Simpson expressed pride for the investigators who helped with the case.
“This operation sends a clear message that Florida is relentless in our pursuit of justice and will not tolerate this criminal activity,” he said.
Moody’s Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange (FORCE) Taskforce was also involved in helping shut down the theft ring.
“The Office of Statewide Prosecution has a nearly 100% conviction rate for organized retail theft cases,” according to the release from Moody’s office.