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Hartford jury convicts retail ‘fencers’

BY Gregory Seay

5/24/2018
A Hartford federal jury has convicted two Connecticut men of running a large-scale operation that swapped cash for retail goods swiped by shoplifters to support their opioid addictions, prosecutors say.

George J. Connelly Jr., 48, of New Haven, and William Reidell, 41, of Branford, were convicted Thursday for their role in the "fencing'' scheme that generated at least $1.5 million in internet sales of merchandise stolen from Home Depot, Lowe's, Target and CVS, among other retailers, the Connecticut U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Both men are free on $100,000 bond each, pending their unscheduled sentencing date, prosecutors said.

According to investigators, Connelly and Paul Muzyka, of North Haven, owned a second-hand store, Ace Amusements in New Haven.

There, the pair bought merchandise they knew to be stolen from "boosters," who typically were shoplifters with opioid addictions, authorities said. The stolen items were sold to Ace for about a third of their retail value, which in turn resold them online.

The jury found Connelly and Reidell each guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit the interstate transport of stolen property, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison.

Connelly also was convicted on two counts, and Reidell guilty of one count, of conspiracy to commit interstate transport of stolen property, punishable by a maximum 10-year prison term. Connelly was acquitted on a count of interstate transport of stolen property, prosecutors said.

On March 16, Muzyka, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit the interstate transport of stolen property and one count of interstate transport of stolen property. He awaits sentencing, authorities said.