Stratford man pleads guilty in large-scale fencing operation

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A Stratford man has admitted to playing a role in a large-scale fencing operation. 42-year-old Matthew Harwood pleaded guilty yesterday. He is accused of participating in a conspiracy to purchase stolen property from “boosters” who typically were shoplifters with opioid addictions, and then resell the property at online websites. Harwood and others instructed the boosters to steal from major chain retail stories such as PETCO, Staples, Walmart and Bed, Bath & Beyond, and paid cash for the items at approximately one-third of the retail price. At times, Harwood provided expenses for rental cars and spending money for trips to steal products. Through this scheme, retailers lost more than $3.9 million dollars.

Harwood pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit the interstate transport of stolen property, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, and one count of interstate transport of stolen property, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. In pleading guilty, Harwood also agreed to forfeit the house in Durham where he formerly resided, and two mutual fund accounts in his name. Harwood has been released on a $100,000 bond since his arrest on July 15, 2016. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

This matter is being investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Connecticut State Police, United States Marshals Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Connecticut Department of Correction, Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney’s Office, and the New Haven, North Haven, Milford, West Haven, Wallingford, Hamden and Orange Police Departments.

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