Two arrested in million-dollar theft ring

ST. PAUL -- A million-dollar theft ring has been broken up by the Woodbury Police Department. Two men have been charged in connection with a scheme that involved stealing hundreds of items from retail stores in the Twin Cities area, then selling ...
Randal David Simmons and Brian James Bowling. Courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff's Office

ST. PAUL - A million-dollar theft ring has been broken up by the Woodbury Police Department.

Two men have been charged in connection with a scheme that involved stealing hundreds of items from retail stores in the Twin Cities area, then selling them on the internet, the department reported Thursday, Aug. 23.

"This is everything you could steal - chain saws, perfume, mattresses," said spokeswoman Michelle Okada.

Randal David Simmons, 54, of Landfall, and Brian James Bowling, 45, of St. Paul, were charged Wednesday with crimes related to the thefts. The charges carry up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

According to police, Bowling was arrested in June for stealing a mattress from the JCPenney store in Woodbury. That led to the discovery of what Washington County Attorney Pete Orput called "the largest retail theft racketeering and fencing case in the metro area."

According to the charges, Bowling stole the items and then gave them to Simmons, who sold them online.

"An entire house and multiple storage units were dedicated to storage of stolen merchandise," said Woodbury Police Commander Steve Wills in a news release.

From June 21 to Aug. 15, according to the criminal complaint, one or both of the men were involved in stealing:

• From Nordstrom at Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka, 25 pairs of blue jeans valued at $5,600. The complaint notes that Bowling was in that store "less than a minute."

• Four tents worth $1,500 and three pieces of luggage worth $1,700, from the REI Co-op in Bloomington.

• Four hoverboards from the Hastings Walmart Supercenter, $1,200.

• From Sam's Club in White Bear Lake, a vacuum cleaner, gaming tower, cash box and electric toothbrushes, $1,800.

• Fish tank filters from PetSmart in Maplewood.

Simmons stored the stolen goods at his home, a storage unit, a secondary residence and two apartment garages in Roseville, the complaint said.

Police would not say Thursday exactly which stores were hit by the thieves, but they thanked Target, JCPenney, Macy's and CVS Pharmacy for their help with the case.