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When an officer steals:

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — A now-former Snohomish County deputy is charged with organized retail theft after allegedly stealing from a south Everett Home Depot over the course of several weeks, last summer. Jeremie Zeller, 46, of Lake Stevens was moonlighting as a security guard at the store at the time.

He is accused of collecting various items from around the store and placing them at the front where he told co-workers he would pay for them before he left.

Prosecutors say surveillance video shows him walking out of the store "on eight occasions" without doing so. When a fellow deputy was called to look at the video, Zeller was immediately recognized, according to the court documents.

The total cost of the merchandise was around $1,000 which makes it a Class B felony, according to state law. "Currently, anything over $750 is considered Theft 2. Nowadays, with the price of things, it does not take a lot to get to that threshold," said Det. Brad Reorda who investigates retail theft for Lynnwood Police. When people think of organized retail theft they often picture groups of people stealing large amounts of merchandise and selling it online or on the black market overseas. " It's bigger than just addicts. It's bigger than the homeless population," said Reorda. "It's their job. It's how they make a living." Lynnwood has arrested at least 22 thieves since October. In the deputy's case, Zeller "expressed confusion" over being hit with a felony organized retail theft charge because he had "never taken more than $750 at a time," according to court documents.

But Det. Reorda says that's not the way it works.

"You might hit a certain retailer every Wednesday. If we can show that pattern, and come up with a total of so many days, we can use that value to charge you with theft."

Reorda emphasizes you don't have to be part of an organized ring to be considered organized crime. "That's the message we want to get out," he says. "We do take this seriously, and I do think we will see a trend of thefts going down."

Organized retail theft.

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