COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Several people from Georgia, including two people from Columbus, involved in a theft ring targeting Sam’s Club stores in which nearly $1 million worth of merchandise was stolen are going to prison after being convicted in a federal case.
According to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office Middle District of Georgia, on April 27, 2022, U.S. District Judge Clay Land handed down sentences to Brian Cowman, Marcel Crawford, Ernest Mitchell, and Mildred Alarcon.
“Brian Cowman profited from this theft ring, reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars, even making a down payment for a new home with the illegal proceeds. These types of large-scale schemes have negative consequences for those of us who do the right thing, including increased prices of goods, business closings and job loss,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “We will take the necessary steps to hold accountable those individuals who scam our citizens.”
- Cowman, 46, of Fortson, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 46 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release after he previously pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to transport stolen goods.
- Crawford, 68, of Columbus, was sentenced to serve 33 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.
- Mitchell, 55, of Columbus, was sentenced to serve 51 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release after they previously pleaded guilty to one count conspiracy to transport stolen goods.
- Alarcon, 48, of Fortson, previously pleaded guilty to one count of false statements and was sentenced to three years of probation.
According to officials, between March 2018 and Feb. 2019, Cowman and Crawford conspired to transport and sell stolen goods taken from numerous Sam’s Club stores across the southeast and midwest, with Mitchell and Alarcon operating under their direction.
Sam’s Clubs stores targeted by the theft ring were in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
Items stolen included ink cartridges, Bose speakers, razors, DVDs, and tick and flea medications and collars for pets, according to officials. Sam’s Club suffered $900,567 in loss due to the thefts.
Official said many the stolen items were sold on Cowman’s eBay store known as “rockislandoutdoorsllc.” Cowman conducted at least 6,474 sales transactions between March 2017 and Feb. 2019.
Officials said Cowman is known to have transferred a total of $412,900 from his PayPal account into his personal bank account in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. A federal search warrant executed at Cowman’s home and storage facility recovered three boxes full of stolen goods plus stolen items valued at approximately $61,000.
The following two co-defendants have been indicted by a federal grand jury and remain at-large:
- Christopher Brown, 50, of Phenix City, Alabama
- Orlando Brooks, 53, of Columbus
Both are both charged with one count of conspiracy to transport stolen goods. If convicted, Brown and Brooks face a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.