Police say Berkley retail fraud was one of many by same suspect

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published February 11, 2021

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BERKLEY — A suspect in a Berkley retail fraud was apprehended after getting in a vehicle crash days after the theft.

According to the Berkley Public Safety Department, the initial crime was reported at 1:42 p.m. Jan. 29 at the T-Mobile store located at 27861 Woodward Ave. The crime was later classified as first-degree retail fraud.

Berkley Public Safety Detective Lt. Andrew Hadfield said the suspect, a 25-year-old Clinton Township man, entered the store and began speaking with employees about its selection of phones. When employees weren’t looking, the suspect was able to steal an Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, Hadfield said.

“He had asked a couple questions about some phones and was just looking at different display models that were within the store and wasn’t being directly helped by any worker — was just browsing through the devices,” he said. “When they weren’t looking, he pulled out a pair of wire cutters and cut the security cord that attached to the phone. And once he did that, he took off running out of the store.”

According to police, witnesses saw what the suspect did and alerted those who worked at the store. The employees went outside and saw the man get in a vehicle and flee the scene, but not before they were able to get a picture of the license plate.

Hadfield said a search of the license plate led investigators to discover that the vehicle had been rented from Hertz that same day.

“It’s unknown if (the theft) was the purpose of renting the vehicle ... but that is common in some types of cases where we’ll notice they’re driving rentals,” he said. “In this case, they were able to identify who had rented the vehicle and an associate who matched the description of the suspect from the store.”

After the thief had fled the scene, an alert was sent to other police agencies regarding the vehicle’s description. Two days after the theft, on Jan. 31, that vehicle was involved in a crash in another jurisdiction, and the suspect was taken to a local hospital.

The man was taken into custody on a separate warrant and was taken to the Macomb County Jail. An interview was conducted there, where the suspect reportedly admitted to being involved in the Berkley retail fraud.

Hadfield said the man is suspected of committing similar crimes in five other cities, one of which was confirmed to be Ferndale. The other cities were not disclosed by Hadfield, as those incidents are still under investigation, but other detectives reportedly called the Berkley Public Safety Department to say that the suspect had committed the same offense in their communities.

“The way he was doing it and the description and some of the clothing even matches between our city and other cities,” Hadfield said of the similarities between the thefts.

The suspect had yet to be arraigned in the 44th District Court as of Monday, but the Berkley Public Safety Department confirmed that a warrant for first-degree retail fraud had been sent to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for authorization.