A labyrinthine study of how retail theft ripples down to fund international terrorism.
An idea born from instant messages exchanged with a friend pushing knock-off handbags, Bloomberg Television reporter Prabhakar decided to “follow the money trail” through the complicated billion-dollar business of counterfeit and stolen retail merchandise. Her consistently distressing research illuminates how organized retail crime (ORC) thrives amid a recessive economy as penny-pinching consumers turn to cheaper ways of purchasing everything from luxury items to prescription and over-the-counter drugs. These seemingly minor shopping decisions, she writes, fuel intricately systematic rings of thieves who funnel millions of American-earned dollars into international terrorist cells, many functioning on American soil. Prabhakar’s indignation is well supported by chapters on the many interlocking facets of black-market thievery, including the calculated machinations of insider and outsider thefts, the creation of money-laundering shell corporations, online “e-fencing,” gift-card fraud and cigarette smuggling. The author chronicles her hours of interviews with authors, industry insiders, loss-prevention experts and key businessmen, many of whom remain anonymous. Law-enforcement case studies demonstrate gradual, hopeful inroads toward thwarting ORC movements with collaborative efforts between government agencies. Countering this is a series of thief profiles revealing a cunning, professional workforce. On a smaller scale, Prabhakar offers everyday advice on how to recognize (and avoid) the work of an ORC operative both online and on the streets, yet ultimately she believes that without the cooperation of state and federal law enforcement and retailers to aggressively regulate this black market, “the cycle will continue.”
Sharp-pencil analysis on the seemingly futile battle against retail fraud.