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News / Clark County News

California man gets five years in prison for complex retail theft scheme that included Vancouver

Jaylan Amir Thomas, 27, of Santa Monica, Calif., ordered to page more than $650K in restitution

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: April 1, 2024, 3:26pm

A California man was sentenced to five years in federal prison Friday for organizing a retail theft scheme that targeted home improvement stores across the country, including in Vancouver, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Jaylan Amir Thomas, 27, of Santa Monica, Calif., pleaded guilty to wire fraud Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court in Seattle, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Washington. Thomas was ordered to pay $664,161.50 in restitution.

Thomas was the ringleader of a group that traveled across the United States, stopping at various home improvement stores and renting construction equipment, such as jack tampers and vibratory plate compactors, each valued between $1,500 and $2,000, according to the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The group stole multiple items from stores in Vancouver, Federal Way, Tacoma, Covington, Longview, Bothell, Everett, Redmond and Seattle.

Thomas used more than 150 fake IDs and dozens of fake phone numbers to rent the equipment. Thomas and others would use debit cards to make deposits for the rentals but would lock the accounts to prevent the stores from charging the cards for the equipment when it wasn’t returned, according to the news release.

He then sold the equipment on online marketplaces for about $700 per machine. The group stole more than 480 pieces from 190 stores in 23 states, the news release states.

Thomas was arrested four times in three jurisdictions for his scheme, but it did not deter him. He would post bail and continue the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said organized retail theft has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic and costs American residents some $30 billion a year.

A Forbes Advisor study ranked Washington as the top state impacted by organized retail theft.