Man faces charges in theft ring probe

He's suspected of stealing merchandise, returning it for gift cards

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter



A man whom investigators called a large-scale “booster” in a retail theft ring appeared in court Monday.

Jerry Thomas Kroupa, 42, who has no listed address, faces charges of leading organized crime, first-degree trafficking of stolen property, possession of stolen property and third-degree theft. He is scheduled to be arraigned on May 31.

According to court documents, Kroupa stole merchandise from stores and then, with help from associates, returned the stolen items for gift cards.

Fred. J. Engh, 30, is also accused of being involved in the ring by purchasing those gift cards from Kroupa for a percentage of their value and selling them online for just below retail value, yielding a profit.

During a 103-day period, Engh allegedly acquired 311 gift cards worth a total of $103,000.

Stores that are victims in the case include Home Depot, Lowe’s, Safeway and J.C. Penney Company.

It is unclear if other associates who assisted Kroupa in returning the stolen merchandise have been arrested or charged.

Engh is a board member of Meals on Wheels, and serves on the steering committee of Vancouver’s Luepke- Center, a community center for seniors.

Both men are being held in the Clark County Jail in lieu of $200,000 bail.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ikata said that there is an ongoing investigation regarding other associates involved in this case.