A man walked into a high-end jewelry store in Tysons Corner Mall and said he wanted to buy a $10,000 watch. But he was acting kind of strange and looking nervous, police said.
A suspicious salesperson stalled the man, got his name and ran a quick search on him. His name popped up on Prince George’s County top ten most wanted list.
The clerk called police. The man ran away. After a short chase, officers arrested Paul Atanoh Danzo, 41, of Laurel.
That was several days before Thanksgiving. In the days since Black Friday, Fairfax County Police have arrested 20 people for retail crimes in the Tysons Corner malls.
“Our officers do an excellent job in training store clerks of what to be suspicious of,” said Fairfax County police Lt. Tony Matos, who is in charge of a retail anti theft team. “That training paid off.”
When police searched Danzo and his car, they found $20,000 worth of jewelry and other items he had allegedly bought with stolen credit cards in Maryland and Virginia, authorities said. He was wanted in Prince George’s on theft and other charges.
Retail crime increases about 30 percent this time of year as people crowd malls and retail centers for holiday shopping, according to some police departments across the region.
D.C.-area police are deploying extra patrols and specialized units, both uniformed and undercover to protect shoppers, employees and businesses.
Hot items this year are iPads and other tablet computers, smartphones, MP3 players and clothing items such as skinny jeans.
Many of the scammers work as part of an organized fencing group, so the person who steals merchandise might not be the person selling it on the black market.
“When they’re selling, they just might be selling to one of my officers,” said. Prince George’s police Lt. Brad Pyle, commander of the special investigations section, which includes the retail crime unit.
Matos said police are investigating Danzo to figure out if he was working alone. Last holiday season, Fairfax County police recovered $200,000 worth of stolen merchandise, an increase from $45,000 the previous year.