A record store owner is charged with using heroin addicts to shoplift more than $2 million worth of books, videos, and other products that he then resold online.
Anthony Cicero, 50, of East Pittsburgh, has been charged with running a corrupt organization out of his Slipped Disc record store in Oakland, a trendy Pittsburgh neighborhood home to The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.
The investigation stretches back to 2008, when a Barnes & Noble investigator began tracing about $30,000 a week in stolen items to the addicts allegedly employed by Cicero, according to a grand jury presentment included with charges filed Wednesday. Cicero is also charged with theft, receiving stolen property, retail theft and conspiracy.
The state attorney general's office said Cicero clearly knew his shoplifters — known as "boosters" — were addicts.
One shoplifter told the grand jury that she saw Cicero in his store with another addict who was sick from heroin withdrawal.
Cicero gave that woman "a 'loan' so she could purchase heroin to, as Cicero explained, 'Go get right' so that she could steal items for him," the grand jury document said.
Cicero would then deduct the loan amount from what he later paid the woman for the stolen items.
"This occurred on a frequent, almost daily basis," the grand jury found.
Cicero's defense attorney, Charles Porter Jr., declined comment Thursday.
The attorney general's investigation included a raid on his record store and home last August, during which roughly 1,500 brand-new stolen items worth more than $44,000 were found. The stolen items were kept separate from the store's merchandise.
Undercover agents also made online buys of stolen merchandise from Cicero, who generally charged close to full retail price while paying his booster's a small fraction of the items' value, the grand jury found.
The boosters were being paid a total of roughly $3,000 a week from Cicero while stealing merchandise worth about 10 times as much, and some boosters worked seven days a week, the grand jury determined.
The boosters stole books, DVDs, weight-loss supplements and even Legos, which Cicero resold on Amazon and eBay.
Cicero sold $1.2 million worth of merchandise through the Amazon account from 2009 to 2012 and $1.1 million through another Amazon account from March 2012 through 2014. Cicero sold about $40,000 worth through the eBay last year, which was open after his Amazon account was suspended, the grand jury said.