Shoplifting Ring Paid Heroin Addicts to Rob Major Stores

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Shoplifting rings paid heroin addicts as much as $2,000 a day to hit retail stores, using eBay as a conduit for resale, a state official said. The rings operated in this southeast Pennsylvania town in late 2003 and 2004, with one store — Dunham's Sports — reporting losses up to $139,000 a year, state Attorney General Tom Corbett said Tuesday.

Heroin addicts were paid as much as $800 to $2,000 each per day for sporting goods, electronics and other small appliances, Corbett said. Industrial equipment, including compressors and paint sprayers, were stolen from businesses and construction sites.

Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Kaufmann's, Dunham's Sports, Radio Shack and Sears stores were among those targeted, Corbett said.

"The defendants took advantage of the desperation of local drug addicts, along with the anonymous nature of Internet auctions, filling their bank accounts while addicts got sicker and stores were pushed to the brink of closing," Corbett said.

Michael Friedenberger, 37, and Brian Patrick Wyland, 33, face dozens of charges, including participating in a corrupt organization, conspiracy, retail theft and criminal solicitation.

Friedenberger was also charged with selling stolen items at his pawn shop. His wife, Lynette, 33, and mother-in-law, Pamela Cross, were charged with participating in a corrupt organization and conspiracy counts.

Friedenberger, his wife and Wyland were in jail Wednesday in lieu of bond. A telephone number for Cross could not be located.