A pair of professional shoplifters used a sophisticated ‘daisychain’ scam to target fashion shops in Blackpool, a court heard.
Charity Moyo, 38, and Carolie Nkomo, 35, stole dresses, tops and shoes from Topshop and Debenhams, so they could return them for a refund at other stores in the North West.
You two are professional shoplifters
The pair were originally charged with conspiracy to commit £170,000 fraud, but pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud committed in the resort in December 2013.
Judge James Adkin, sentencing, said: “You two are professional shoplifters.”
On December 12 2013, Moyo and Nkomo were spotted carrying several items of clothing into the changing rooms of Topshop in Victoria Street, Blackpool.
One of the women bought a dress for £40 but after the pair had left the store, the manager checked the changing room where she found a black and white jumpsuit hanging up with security tags attached which did not belong to the outfit.
A number of other security tags were also found around the store.
The following day the pair returned to the shop but the manager followed them out of the store and into Debenhams in the Houndshill Shopping Centre, where she alerted security.
The women were arrested and were found to have a number of items of clothing, car keys and iPhones.
A Peugeot 106 car registered to Nkomo was found in Adelaide Street, with £827.66 cash in the boot along with carrier bags of clothing and receipts from a number of stores including branches of Topshop and Debenhams across the North West.
It later emerged the women had returned the items for an exchange or credit note, then returned the alternative items – now with a receipt – for a cash refund.
Judge Adkin said: “You were involved in a scam called daisychaining.
“You needed to know which shops were vulnerable, evade shop security and you must have researched yourself or spoken to others about the security that was in place.”
Nkomo, a student nurse, has previous convictions for carrying out similar scams in Debenhams, Ipswich in 2006, Marks and Spencer in Banbury, Oxfordshire in 2007 and All Saints in Kent in 2009.
Moyo had cautions including one for shoplifting.
The prosecution was unable to put a value on the items which were stolen and exchanged but Paul Munro, the manager of Topshop, said at least £200 of clothes had been taken from his store alone.
When Nkomo was questioned about the clothes in her car, she did not challenge the police officer’s estimate that there was around £2,000 of clothes in the boot.
However she said: “It looks very bad for me to be travelling round exchanging clothes but Charity is going home to Zimbabwe and I am buying clothes for my family.
“I can prove my sister gave me £400 to buy clothes – they don’t have designer clothes.”
Judge Adkin said: “You Nkomo, have started to accumulate a record for shoplifting, some of it using the same modus operandi, pretending to have legitimate receipts in order to extract cash.
“You Moyo don’t have previous convictions but you have a number of cautions.”
He said the offending was serious due to the complexity of the scam which was sophisticated and well thought-out.
However he accepted it was short-lived over two days in Blackpool and that Nkomo has family responsibilities as a full time student and Moyo works as a support worker.
He sentenced Nkomo, of Daisy Hill Close, Sale, and Moyo of Raydon Avenue, Manchester, to eight months’ jail suspended for 12 months, and ordered them to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work with six months’ supervision.