TRENTON NJ March 14 2017 -- A Cumberland County woman on Friday admitted running a retail shoplifting ring that boosted merchandise and made bogus returns at stores across South Jersey, authorities said.
Chiara K. Pender, 30, pleaded guilty to a second-degree charge of leading an organized retail theft enterprise during an appearance in front of Superior Court Judge John T. Kelley in Camden County, according to the state Attorney General's Office.
Authorities say Pender, of Millville, ran an operation that stole more than $20,000 over a six-month period in 2016, recruiting members and driving them to targeted stores including Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Target, Walmart, Home Goods, Lowes, Kohls, Burlington Coat Factory and Rite Aid.
According to a statement from Attorney General Christopher Porrino's office, the thefts followed "a consistent pattern."
A member would steal clothing, electronics and other items from the store and then either return them at the same store or another location of the same chain, according to police. They would often receive gift cards with store credit for the returns, selling them at a discount to pawn shops, authorities claim.
State Police arrested Pender in June, and three other members of the ring -- Thareick Archer, 26 of Vineland; Sharhonda Collins, 50, of Bridgeton; and Mark Rabb III, 30, of Millville -- have since pleaded guilty to lesser charges, authorities said.
Under a plea deal, prosecutors are recommending Pender receive a five-year sentence and pay restitution to the stores, authorities said.