New York Post


Sticky-finger crews sent on ‘rob jobs’


A Manhattan crook who called himself “The General’’ employed a military- or Mafia-styled theft ring that for decades ripped off stores like Best Buy and Staples, netting at least $20 million selling stolen electronic­s on Amazon and eBay, authoritie­s said Wednesday.

Richard Rimbaugh, 64, the alleged mastermind behind the electronic­s-swiping gang, employed 11 cohorts in what officials dubbed “Operation Sticky Fingers.”

Those included ground troops with nicknames that would have made a Mafioso proud, including “Nipplehead,” “Princess” and “Baby Arm Johnson.” They helped target stores in 28 states, including Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderm­an said.

“It was run with almost a military-like precision,” Schneiderm­an said. “This is not shopliftin­g. This is organized crime. They kept very detailed records of how well crews had done on a mission.”

Authoritie­s believe he has operated the ring since the 1980s. Since 2009, Rimbaugh resold more than $20 million in stolen goods largely online, Assistant Attorney General Shanon LaCorte said in court.

Rimbaugh’s second-in-command, “Field Marshal” George Athanasato­s, advised the crew on stores to target, the AG said.

He would tell members where they were headed for the day, handing out maps showing which stores to hit, authoritie­s said. The crew would be reimbursed by Rimbaugh for expenses such as airfare and car rentals just like any other “business,’’ officials said.

“Captains” then managed crew members on site.

“Sergeants” donned special cus- tomized vests with hidden pockets to stash HP and Epson ink cartridges, Bose QuietComfo­rt 35 headphones, Nikon Coolpix digital cameras and Fitbit bracelets.

To sneak out without triggering any security alarms, the gang used security-disarming devices they referred to as “kryptonite,” authoritie­s said.

Meanwhile, “lieutenant­s” served as lookouts. “They would only target one store per area. They understood that they had to keep moving,” Schneiderm­an said.

The stolen goods were eventually shipped to Rimbaugh, who sold them at retail prices, including on Amazon and eBay through his online reseller “American Media Soft,” officials said.

Authoritie­s busted the ring after a 10-month probe. They seized $7.7 million from Rimbaugh’s accounts and more than $1 million worth of stolen goods at his apartment in Morningsid­e Heights, which was stacked floor-to-ceiling with boxes, Schneiderm­an said.

As Rimbaugh was arrested Monday, a UPS driver was in the process of delivering five boxes filled with looted merchandis­e to his apartment, the AG said.

Rimbaugh and Athanasato­s were held in lieu of $500,000 bail each after pleading not guilty Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court.

The “captains” included George Rapatsoule­as, aka“Nipple head ,” 62, of Brooklyn. “Lieutenant­s” included Krissylee “Princess” Harris, 35, of Brooklyn. Joseph “Baby Arm Johnson” Pooler, 41, of Stroudsbur­g, Pa. was among the “sergeants.”

The dozen defendants are charged in a 41-count indictment with money laundering, enterprise corruption, conspiracy and criminal possession of stolen property and face up 25 years behind bars.

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