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Polk deputies break up retail theft ring

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POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Polk County Sheriff's Deputies have broken up a large retail theft ring that involved 18 people. 

Sheriff Grady Judd says Malynda Ford, 35 of Spoonbill Ct. in Lakeland, was the ringleader and the 17 others assisted her, mainly returning the items.

"Just on average, from a one day snapshot of us following Malynda around, and watching the returners ... a one-day snapshot tells us this one group would average $350,000 to $400,000 a year in theft," said Sheriff Judd. "When you look at the size of this operation, for only a 30-day period, we're staggered."

Judd said Ford did most of the stealing, and would sometimes conceal the items by hiding them on her body, then get other people to return the goods for refunds or refunds cards.

"She had the ability to conceal property more easily than other people," Judd said. "She didn't take the entire department store out but she could take a portion of it out. She would take six, seven, shirts … 10 shirts at a time."

Investigators believe others were involved because of a limit of returns.

"She had to have a team of people so she could rotate them through the stores," Judd said.

Judd seemed agitated that some of those arrested appeared to know how to dodge the criminal justice system.

"Some of these folks have told us that they more often target stores where there is a Notice to Appear Policy rather than a pro-arrest policy," Judd said. "There are a lot of law enforcement agencies that give NTA's or Notices to Appear for Retail theft. They don't take them to jail. They just give them a court date and recover the property whenever store security has caught them and everybody goes along their way."

He said Polk County has a policy of "take them to jail."

"My message to all law enforcement agencies is please take them all to jail because we're not dealing with somebody who has just stolen a shirt many times," he said. "We're dealing with potentially organized retail theft."

Here are those facing charges:

Malynda Ford, 3916 Spoonbill Ct., Lakeland; organized Dealing in Stolen Property, Grand Theft

Julian Betard, 3916 Spoonbill Ct., Lakeland; 2 counts Dealing in Stolen Property

Shawnda Knight, 1104 Bartow Rd., Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Qulyshia Adams, 5320 Serena Dr., Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Gerard O'Neal, 1819 Kendrick Lane, Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Lanecia Adams, 1858 Grand Bay Cr. #102, Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Chanice Abrams, 933 Beech Ave., Lakeland; 3 counts Dealing in Stolen Property

Taurus Morris, 415 5th St., Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Ray A Morris, 5230 Wood Circle, Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Kareita Green, 2911 Chabett Ave., Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Erica Davis, 933 Beech Ave., Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Daiquiri Willis, 830 Augusta St., Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Darrell Love, 2850 Eight Iron Dr., Lakeland; 1 count dealing in Stolen Property and Violation of Probation

Elula E Cook, 5995 Beckworth Ave., Bartow; 1 count Organized Dealing in Stolen Property, 1 count Trafficking in Hydrocodone and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Terry F King, 1035 Baycrest Dr., Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Britney Watts, 501 Hartsell Ave., Lakeland; 1 count Dealing in Stolen Property

Kristy Rushing, 813 Ellerbe Way, Lakeland; 2 counts Dealing in Stolen Property

Yolanda King, 1306 Fairbanks St. Lakeland; 2 counts Dealing in Stolen Property

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