By Joe Johnson
A member of a large retail theft organization was arrested this weekend after he was caught stealing from Lowes on Lexington Road, Athens-Clarke County police said.
The suspect was in possession of 10 driver’s licenses from different states with that each bore his photo but had different names, according to police.
Dhouruba Bin Assante, 50, of Winston was arrested Friday afternoon after being detained by loss prevention personnel who believed Assante “to be part of an organized retail crime group that had been hitting their stores,” police said.
A loss prevention officer told police that Assante had shoplifted from a Lowes in Snellville the day before, and that he brought the stolen merchandise to the Athens store in order to get a refund, police said. Assante received a refund in the form of a gift card valued at more than $1,000, police said.
Assante used the gift card to purchase merchandise that he brought to a vehicle occupied by other suspects in the parking lot, according to police.
The Lowes employee said that Assante then returned to the store and selected a backpack blower that he tried to take from the store without paying, claiming that the receipt from the previously purchased items was for the blower, according to police.
When the loss prevention officer detained Assante the other suspects drove away, police said.
Assante was very candid about his criminal activities when questioned by police.
According to a police incident report, the suspect admitted to stealing from Lowes stores in Athens and Snellville, as well as from Walmart locations.
He said that he used fraudulent driver’s licenses to get refunds for merchandise.
The fake licenses he had in his possession purported to be issued in North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Kentucky and California. Each was affixed with what appeared to be an official state seal or department logo, police said.
“He told me that the quality of the licenses, which he got in Atlanta, were not good and generally the employees taking the returns were either old, young, or foreign and that they didn’t check them very good,” an officer wrote in the police report.
“He acknowledged being part of a large group that regularly committed shoplifting crimes, selling the merchandise on the streets,” the officer noted. “He told me that he had been doing this for 1-2 years.”
Assante was charged with felony theft by shoplifting, theft by deception and 10 counts of possession of fraudulent identification having a government seal or logo, police said.
As of Tuesday, he continued to be incarcerated at the Clarke County Jail in lieu of bonds totaling $15,000.