A Newburgh, Indiana, man was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison late last week for his role in a theft ring that re-sold everything from vacuum cleaners to electronics to turn a profit.
Michael J. Rupert, 42, pleaded guilty in June 2016 to conspiracy to commit interstate transport of stolen property and two counts of interstate transportation of stolen property.
Rupert owned and operated a pawn shop called DealMakers in Newburgh. From March 2012 to June 2014, Rupert worked with a group of people stealing high-end items from stores in Evansville, Indiana, according to court documents.
Among the stores the ring targeted were Macy’s and Dillard’s, where they stole designer wallets and purses, and Home Depot, where they stole expensive power tools, hand tools and battery chargers. Rupert sold more than $130,000 worth of stolen property.
“Certain participants in the conspiracy acquired valuable goods ... based on their immediate need for cash,” investigators wrote in a 25-page indictment.
Thieves would bring stolen goods to Rupert, who would buy the items for significantly less than market value, then sell them on eBay at a higher price to customers around the country, according to court documents. Many members of the ring were motivated by drug addiction. In court, Rupert admitted the ring contributed to drug problems in southern Indiana by enabling addicts and encouraging them to continue stealing to support their habits.
Members of the ring sometimes stole goods directly from stores by walking out with the items. Other times, the goods were purchased with stolen credit cards. Members of the ring would then return these items for store credit, which Rupert would buy back from them for half its worth, according to court documents. The FBI raided DealMakers in August 2014 before arresting Rupert.
“Michael Rupert is a thief who used drug addicts to do his dirty work for him,” United States attorney Josh Minkler said in a press release. “Rupert not only stole from Evansville businesses, he used the proceeds from those thefts to help fuel the demand for drugs in this community.”
Nineteen people were charged for their involvement in the ring. Kyle N. Hudson, who owned an iPhone repair company and often partnered with Rupert, was found guilty in federal court in February 2016. The other conspirators were prosecuted by the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office.
The FBI, Evansville Police Department and Vanderburgh County Prosecuting Attorney investigated this case.
Rupert must serve two years of supervised release once he is released from prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd S. Shellenbarger, who prosecuted the case for the government, said Rupert must also pay restitution in the total amount of $136,246 and forfeit funds seized in a bank account and a PayPal account Rupert controlled.