Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., and Senator Brad Hoylman today announced the introduction of new legislation (S. 8836), which would create penalties for online marketplaces and third-party sellers that foster the sale of stolen goods. The bill, introduced during National Small Business Week, would protect smaller retailers by creating a new class A misdemeanor offense for those who host, advertise, or assist the sale of stolen goods. While penalties exist for possessing stolen goods, there is no specific law in New York State that targets facilitating the sale of these items online. Creating these new penalties will push companies – including large companies such as Facebook, Instagram and Amazon, where stolen goods often end up – to take further steps to safeguard their platforms and allow law enforcement to target the ringleaders of these schemes. It will also create a further disincentive for sellers to put stolen goods up for sale online.
“It has never been easier to sell stolen products online – it is time we address this seemingly open spigot of marketplaces that freely sell these goods without consequences. This legislation would encourage major companies to implement more safeguards, deter future illegal activity and protect small businesses. I thank Senator Hoylman for his commitment to addressing the impacts of retail theft and partnering with us to find new and creative ways to enhance public safety,” said District Attorney Bragg.
“The online marketplace for stolen goods is booming, and we intend to do something about it. Many innocent consumers are purchasing illegal products and don’t even know it. A booming market means more organized shoplifting, which is terrorizing retail business in my district. Our legislation (S.8836) would force third-party sellers, like Facebook and Amazon, to enact better safeguards to prevent these exchanges from occurring on their platforms. I thank District Attorney Bragg for partnering with us to protect small businesses and hold sellers of illegal goods accountable,” said Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).
The proliferation of online marketplaces for third-party sellers has created convenient opportunities to sell stolen goods through marketplaces anonymously and without any physical interaction with customers. The lack of regulation in this area helps facilitate this illegal activity, as law enforcement has few tools to hold sellers of stolen items accountable. By creating these new penalties, the theft of retail products will become a less lucrative and attractive scheme. It will also cause companies to more proactively share information about who is selling stolen goods, allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on more sophisticated actors who are running theft rings for profit.
This legislation is one component of D.A. Bragg’s efforts to combat retail theft and support local businesses. In addition to regularly meeting with retail and business owners, In January, the Office formed the “Manhattan Small Business Alliance” to reduce shoplifting and commercial robberies in partnership with small business leaders in every neighborhood of Manhattan. Comprised of local business owners, Business Improvement District (“BID”) directors, members of law enforcement, and social service providers, the Alliance meets regularly to analyze and review data, draft recommendations, and develop solutions – including building proactive prosecutions and crafting policy and legislative recommendations like today’s bill.
Tom Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance, said, “I commend Senator Hoylman and Manhattan District Attorney Bragg for introducing and supporting this legislation that gives law enforcement another tool to effectively deal with the sale of stolen goods online and encourage major corporations to monitor their platforms. This brings us one step closer to curtailing the retail theft that plagues our small businesses.”
Barbara A. Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance, said, “Accountability at every level for stolen articles for sale on the internet is critically important to stopping the spread of stolen goods, ending practices that erode businesses’ ability to be sustainable, and protecting the value of brands. We thank Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. for pursuing criminals that are responsible for procuring the goods and the online distribution of stolen goods. The Garment District Alliance strongly supports Manhattan District Attorney Bragg and Senator Brad Hoylman’s proposed legislation, S8836.”
Council Member Gale A. Brewer (D-06) said, “I commend Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and State Senator Brad Hoylman for introducing legislation to impose tougher fines on third party vendors who sell stolen merchandise. Chain and department store shoplifting incidents have increased significantly, particularly in Manhattan, and have been trending upward over the last few years. Retail theft hurts the local economy and we have to protect business owners from theft and unfair competition.”
Council Member Julie Menin (D-5), Chair of the New York City Council Small Business Committee, said “Our small businesses are suffering from stolen goods which are sold online at discounted prices. Placing accountability on the facilitation of these sales by those who host, advertise, or assist the sale of stolen goods will take away the opportune convenience to sell stolen goods online. With new penalties and further regulations, law enforcement can focus on finding the bad actors running theft rings. I thank Senator Hoylman for introducing this bill which will enable DA Bragg and law enforcement offices to help our small businesses and combat retail theft.”
Council Member Christopher Marte (D-1) said, “Too often our legal systems lag behind technology, allowing websites and social media companies to exploit legislators’ ignorance or indifference and promote illegal activity. I commend Senator Hoylman and District Attorney Bragg for proactively working to close these loopholes and create a justice system for the 21st century.”