Robert Whitley and Noni Whitley, father and daughter, have each pleaded guilty to a separate criminal information charging them for their roles in operating Closeout Express and Essential Daily Discounts, which for years sold millions of dollars of stolen retail product online.
According to a press release by the U.S. District Attorney’s office, Robert and Noni Whitley ran two businesses called Closeout Express and Essential Daily Discounts, operating from a warehouse and several residences in Atlanta. Robert Whitley and Noni Whitley relied on “boosters”—who are essentially professional shoplifters—to steal specific retail products or categories of items, including over-the-counter medications (e.g., Prilosec, Nexium, Rogaine, and Claritin), shaving razors, oral care products, as well as health and beauty aids. The boosters stole these products from various big box retailers, national drugstore chains, and national supermarket chains throughout metro Atlanta including CVS, Kroger, Publix, Target, and Walgreens. The boosters would typically bring the stolen product in large trash bags to Closeout Express’s warehouse in southwest Atlanta. Robert and Noni Whitley paid the boosters in cash for the stolen product.
“Robert and Noni Whitley operated a well-organized criminal enterprise disguised as an apparently legitimate small business,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “This is retail theft on a massive scale. We will continue to work with retailers and manufacturers to combat organized retail crime that is made easier and more lucrative by the ease by which stolen product can be sold online.”
Between approximately January 2011 and November 2019, Robert Whitley and Noni Whitley operated an organized retail crime operation (“ORC”) in Atlanta through several entities, including Closeout Express and Essentials Daily Discounts. An ORC operation refers to a professional shoplifting, cargo theft, or retail crime ring, or other organized crime occurring in a retail environment. Robert Whitley was the owner and operator of Closeout Express. Noni Whitley worked with her father and helped operate and manage their ORC operation.
“The investigation of this criminal enterprise required coordinated enforcement actions through the sharing of intelligence and working together operationally with the FBI. This extensive scheme went beyond petty shoplifting at retail stores and entailed the deliberate sale of stolen goods through third party marketplaces for profit,” said Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division. “Postal Inspectors are committed to protecting the U.S. Mail system and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate these types of crimes.”
Robert Whitley, 70, of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. His sentencing is scheduled for July 28, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. Noni Whitley, 46, of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property. Her sentencing is scheduled for July 28, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. Both sentencings will be held before U.S. District Judge J. P. Boulee.