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Four charged in theft of $38,000 from East Syracuse Home Depot

— DeWitt Police charged the following people today after a two-month investigation conducted by Officer Christopher Fuller and Home Depot Loss Prevention personnel. The investigation began in early August when Home Depot personnel identified what they believed to be fraudulent returns taking place at the store on Bridge Street in East Syracuse.

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Lotan G. Mitchell

Lotan G. Mitchell, 30, of 108 Edna Drive, Syracuse, was charged with third-degree grand larceny degree and first-degree falsifying business records.

Sundai T. Tyler, 29, of 102 Onondaga Ave., Syracuse, was charged with third-degree grand larceny degree, first-degree falsifying business records, and fourth-degree criminal facilitation.

Shaunell Hammonds, 37, of 108 Edna Drive, Syracuse, was charged with third-degree grand larceny degree and first-degree falsifying business records.

Everton Mitchell, 59, of 136 Berger Ave., Syracuse, was charged with third-degree grand larceny degree and first-degree falsifying business records.

Investigators found that Lotan Mitchell was working in concert with defendants Sundai Tyler, Shaunell Hammonds and Everton Mitchell in routinely stealing large quantities of merchandise from Home Depot, starting in late 2011, DeWitt Police said.

Mitchell would then orchestrate fraudulent returns of the merchandise in order to obtain store gift cards for financial gain, police said. The investigation found that Mitchell had several different people return the stolen merchandise to various Home Depots throughout Central New York in an attempt to circumvent Home Depot’s fraudulent return prevention system.

The defendants are responsible for stealing in excess of $38,000 in merchandise from Home Depot over the course of the last year, police said.

The arrests resulted from recent combined efforts between law enforcement, the district attorney’s office and the retail industry to aggressively combat the growing problem of organized retail crime, police said. A 2012 study conducted by the National Retail Federation showed levels at an all time high, with 96 percent of retailers surveyed saying they have been victims of organized retail crime in the last 12 months.

The defendants were arraigned in the Town of DeWitt Court. Lotan Mitchell was remanded to the Justice Center on $10,000 cash or $20,000 bail bond; Everton Mitchell was remanded on $5,000 cash or $10,000 bail bond; Sundai Tyler was released to the pre-trial release program; and Shaunell Hammonds posted $50,00 cash bail. All defendants are due back in DeWitt Court at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 17.

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