Report examines organized retail crime and its link to the opioid crisis


 NASHVILLE — State Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) is featured in an investigative report posted on CNBC today which examines organized retail crime and its link to the opioid crisis.  In addition to an interview with Briggs, the report also takes a firsthand look at the problem with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Area Law Enforcement and Retailers Team (A.L.E.R.T).

The report, “Gift Card Crime Fueling Opioid Addiction across the U.S.,” follows the passage of a new law sponsored by Briggs and approved by the General Assembly this year defining organized retail crime and creating two new theft offenses to prosecute individuals who return stolen merchandise to receive money, gift cards or store credit.

Retail theft is prevalent in Tennessee, with Knoxville ranking first in the nation per capita for card abuse and theft.

“We have a crisis in Tennessee where goods are stolen and then returned to retailers for credit on a gift card,” said Senator Briggs.  “The cards are sold for cash, which in turn, is fueling the illegal drug market.”

While the bill was going through the legislative process, expert testimony by law enforcement revealed that there were 19 overdoses due to opioids during one month in Knox County in which 16 had sold gift cards on the resale market for cash.  Reports from law enforcement and others, like CNBC, continue to lend validity to the connection of the use of gift cards obtained through retail theft and illegal drugs.

The new law allows local law enforcement to track gift card purchases and their resale when the card was obtained fraudulently and establishes a reporting requirement that allows authorities to collect the needed data to demonstrate the fiscal impact of the crime.

Briggs plans to introduce legislation when the 110th General Assembly reconvenes in January to enhance the reporting requirements and strengthen penalties against retail theft offenders.  He believes the proposal will dovetail with legislative efforts to address the state’s opioid epidemic.

Briggs added, “If you look at the entire impact of Tennessee, it’s higher prices for consumers; we are not collecting taxes that we are supposed to; but its funding the drug trade, which is without question one of the largest crises in our state.”

It is estimated that in 2015 Tennessee lost over $14 million in sales tax dollars and retailers lost over $200 million related to return fraud.

Other states are already looking at the new Tennessee law as model legislation.

The CNBC report is posted at: and features National Emmy-Award winning journalist Contessa Brewer.   Segments of the report are expected to be shown on the network throughout the day.



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