SAN DIEGO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis today announced the arrest of an individual who ran a sophisticated scheme at San Diego area Lowe's and Home Depot stores in which he replaced the bar codes on expensive merchandise with bar codes that scanned at lower prices.
Steve Allen Koski, 42, of San Diego, was arraigned yesterday in San Diego Superior Court on 11 felony counts, including grand theft and 10 counts of burglary. His bail has been set at $250,000. He is being held in San Diego County Jail.
Koski stole or attempted to steal more than $30,000 in copper wire and other merchandise from Lowe's and Home Depot stores. He then re-sold that merchandise to California recycling centers for over $180,000.
"For all the efficiency and conveniences that modern technologies provide, we are continuing to see criminals use these same technologies to defraud California businesses and consumers," Attorney General Harris said. "The eCrime Unit is devoted to aggressively pursuing criminals who misappropriate modern technologies for their own benefit."
Surveillance video showed Koski entering various home improvement stores and replacing legitimate bar codes on copper wire and other expensive merchandise with counterfeit bar codes that scanned at lower prices. Through this scheme, Koski fraudulently purchased copper wire for $60 to $90 and then re-sold it at California recycling centers for $200 to $300. To appear legitimate and sidestep the State's efforts to crack down on recycling fraud, Koski created a phony business called "iRecycle". The evidence suggests Koski may have netted over $180,000 through this scheme.
In February, the Attorney General's eCrime Unit launched an investigation after Lowe's reported to the offices of the Attorney General and the San Diego District Attorney that Koski ran this scheme at multiple stores throughout San Diego.
"Our office is holding Steve Allen Koski responsible for his actions," said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "We do not tolerate scams and we are aggressive about prosecuting perpetrators who think they can get away with bilking businesses and consumers."
California is among the top five states with the highest reported incidences of copper theft. The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports 1,342 metal theft claims in California from January 2009 to December 2011, with approximately 96% of these claims pertaining to the theft of copper.
Last year, Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cyber crimes and other crimes involving the use of technology. More information available here: http://oag.ca.gov/cybersafety.
A copy of the complaint is attached to the online version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov