On Thursday, March 05, 2015, Polk County Sheriff’s Office undercover detectives served three search warrants and arrested five suspects during an Organized Retail Theft Investigation “Operation Not So Lucky.” In the investigation, deputies received tips about several businesses buying stolen goods. Deputies approached 14 convenience store businesses in Polk County—9 in Lakeland, 2 in Winter Haven, and 3 in the Lake Wales area—offering to supply stolen merchandise for sale. Only three stores agreed to purchase stolen merchandise.
Those arrested were:
49-year-old Mohammed Eid, DOB 12/01/1965, 220 1st Street N., Lake Wales. Eid is charged with Petit Theft 1st Offense, Dealing in Stolen Property, and Unlawful Possession of Personal ID (food assistance account number) of 5 or more.
65-eyar-old Marwan Samhan, DOB 10/20/1949, 859 Osceola Avenue, Lake Wales. M. Samham is charged with Counterfeit (merchandise) - Value more than $2,500, and Petit Theft.
67-year-old Talal H. Samhan, DOB: 09/23/1947, 859 Osceola Avenue, Lake Wales. T. Samhan is charged with Counterfeit (merchandise) -Value More than $2,500.
53-year-old Ashraf Reza, DOB: 06/06/1961, 3693 Hampton Hills Drive, Lakeland. Reza is charged with Petit Theft, Grand Theft, and Dealing in Stolen Property.
63-year-old Caesar Cleon Pugh, DOB: 11/07/1951, 1410 Lotela Avenue, Lakeland. Pugh is charged with Grand Theft, and Dealing in Stolen Property.
In January 2015, officers with the Lake Wales Police Department contacted members of the PCSO Organized Retail Theft unit advising them they had information about businesses buying stolen merchandise for resale in their stores. A joint investigation revealed several local stores were purchasing stolen goods then reselling the merchandise in their establishments. Acting in an undercover capacity, detectives confirmed the above listed suspects were engaging in dealing in stolen property and/or selling counterfeit merchandise in businesses located in Lake Wales and Lakeland. Deputies also received tips that “The Meat Man” (Ceasar Pugh) was known to steal and re-sell stolen meat from local grocery stores. He was also arrested after he bought meat from undercover deputies that was represented as stolen.
On March 5, 2015, search warrants were executed at three separate businesses.
Details of the investigation:
Amir’s Grocery, 220 North 1st St, Lake Wales - During a search Amir’s Grocery, detectives located several products, to include condoms and 3-D Crest White toothpaste, which had been represented as stolen then delivered to the suspects by undercover deputies for the specific purpose of re-sale. During the undercover operation Eid provided a “shopping list” to an undercover detective of stolen items he would buy from the detective, which was later supplied to and purchased by Eid.
Amir’s Grocery was found to be in a filthy condition. Utensil containers and areas where food was placed were unsanitary. Lake Wales Code Enforcement was contacted and responded to the scene. The Health Department was also notified.
The suspect, Mohammed Eid, was located inside the store during the execution of the search warrant. He was arrested for an outstanding arrest warrant for petit theft (5 counts) and dealing in stolen property (5 counts). Eid was found to be in possession of two EBT cards that belonged to other/different people. A total of eight (8) cards were discovered through the investigation. Members of the Fraud Unit responded. Eid was additionally charged with: Unlawful Possession of Personal ID (food assistance account number) of 5 or more. A total of $1,508.00 in U.S. Currency was seized from the store.
Leader Discount Store, 859 Osceola Avenue Lake Wales- During a search of Leaders Discount, detectives located a total of nineteen (19) purses suspected to be counterfeit. These purses displayed high end brand name labels such as Dolce Gabanna, Jimmy Choo, Channel, Juicy Couture, Coach, Gucci, and Burberry. Bags of name brand logos were also discovered. (45 Michael Kors, 96 Michael Kors name plates, 5 Versace, 25 Juicy Couture, 2 Jimmy Choo, and 1 Channel). Detectives also located and seized $1,519.00 in US Currency.
Talal Hussein Samhan was located in the store during the investigation. Post Miranda, he admitted to purchasing the inventory of purses in the store. He claimed to travel to a location in Tampa to purchase some of counterfeit goods, including counterfeit logos. Samhan said he knew this was illegal. He said that he also purchased purses and logos from various other people. These people are under investigation. Tal Hussein Samhan was arrested at the scene and charged with Counterfeit Private Labels (more than $2,500 less than $20K).
Marwan Huseub Samhan, was also located inside the store. Talal Samhan and Marwan Samhan are brothers. Marwan Samhan had an outstanding warrant for his arrest of counterfeiting (value more than $2500) and petit theft (2 counts). His charges stemmed from transactions he conducted with undercover detectives. During one of the transactions, detectives delivered a Michael Kors purse to Marwan Samhan for $10.00 in U.S. currency. The purse was represented as stolen and sold at a discounted price. During Marwan Samhan’s interview, he told detectives that they could find the purse in the trunk of his car. Detectives searched the vehicle and located the purse.
Lucky’s Supermarket 810 W. 5th Street in Lakeland - At approximately 2 PM on March 5th, a search warrant was executed at Lucky’s Supermarket. During a search of the business, detectives located thirteen (13) tubes of 5.5 ounce Crest 3-D White toothpaste, five (5) 4 ounce tubes of Crest 3-D White toothpaste, four (4) sticks of Secret gel deodorant, eight (8) cans of AXE body spray, and four (4) sticks of Dove men’s deodorant. These items were previously sold to Ashraf Reza represented as merchandise stolen from Walmart by undercover deputies. These items were strategically marked by detectives prior to the sale. Thursday, detectives located the items on store shelves, displayed for resale. Inside the suspect’s 2006 BMW 525i, detectives located $22,779.00 in US Currency.
Ashref Reza was discovered working in the store during the execution of the search warrant. Post Miranda, Reza said that there was only $2,000.00 US Currency in his vehicle. Reza said that the money was from the proceeds of Lottery ticket sales from his Wauchula store. On March 4th, 2015, detectives acting in an undercover capacity sold Reza two purses that were represented as stolen from Macy’s. They also sold Reza five (5) fragrances, three (3) bottles of Tylenol, and eleven (11) cans of AXE body spray. During his interview, Reza said that the purses, fragrances, Tylenol, and some of the AXE spray was at his residence. Reza said that he transported the merchandise from his business to his residence in the BMW. There was no lien on the vehicle. Detectives seized the BMW.
Detectives responded to 3693 Hampton Hills Drive in Lakeland and made contact with Reza’s wife, Lucky Reza. She signed a written consent to search form. Inside the residence, detectives recovered one (1) Kenneth Cole Reaction purse and three (3) cans of AXE body spray.
During the investigation, Ashref Reza passed out at the scene. EMS responded and transported him to LRMC for evaluation. Reza was awake and responsive. He was admitted for observation after suffering an anxiety attack.
Caesar Cleon Pugh
Detectives received information that Ceasar Pugh—“the Meat Man”—was known to re-sell meat stolen from area grocery stores. Tips also said he also stole meat from local retailers. Earlier this week undercover detective sold Pugh $310 worth of meat represented to be stolen from Publix. Pugh purchased the meat from undercover detectives for $55.00. Thursday, Pugh was located at 5th Street and Kettles Avenue in Lakeland. He was taken into custody without incident. Pugh was uncooperative and transported to the county jail. Pugh has a very lengthy criminal history dating back to 1990. His criminal arrest history includes charges of Robbery, Aggravated Battery, Possession of Cocaine, Aggravated Assault, VOP, Felony Petit Theft, Domestic Violence/Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Grand Theft, Resisting Merchant (Retail Theft), and Pickpocketing. Pugh receives government financial assistance on a monthly basis.