Pennsylvania Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Money Laundering Charges

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PITTSBURGH, PA — A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has entered pleas of guilty to three separate criminal charges arising out of his ownership and operation of a series of electronics reseller stores in the greater Pittsburgh area, announced United States Attorney Cindy Chung. Milton I. Barr, age 36, entered pleas to separate counts charging him with Criminal Conspiracy, Mail Fraud and Money Laundering on Thursday, January 12, 2023.

Barr was, during the time period of the Indictment, the owner/operator of Ninja Electronics, a series of retail stores that was initially in the business of selling used and refurbished electronic items. The evidence presented to the Court showed that during the period January 2016 through August 2018 Barr oversaw an operation that generated substantial revenue by purchasing health and beauty aids such as Crest White Strips, cosmetics, razor blades, hair care products and similar items, as well as over the counter medications such as name brand cough and cold medications, pain relievers, heartburn treatments and the like. Barr’s employees purchased these items from sellers who walked into his stores from off the street. The evidence showed that these walk-in sellers were invariably drug addicts who had shoplifted the items from local drug stores, grocery stores and retail chains. The records in the case showed that these addict sellers came into Ninja Electronics frequently, often multiple times in the same day or multiple times in the same week, offering items for sale to Ninja that were purchased by Ninja for pennies on the dollar of their original price. Ninja in turn took these stolen goods, always new and in the box, and then offered them for sale on websites like Amazon, shipping them to their ultimate purchasers through the United States mail. The evidence showed that in only one of the multiple Ninja bank accounts Barr received in excess of $540,000 in payments from Amazon during the less than three-year indictment period.

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The evidence showed that Barr’s stores operated on a kind of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy. That is, employees were instructed not to ask the drug addict sellers where they obtained the merchandise they were selling, and if a seller told an employee that the item had been shoplifted employees were instructed not to buy the item. However, it was common knowledge among all the employees that the walk-in sellers were stealing the merchandise that Ninja was buying.

The Court set sentencing for Barr on May 17, 2023. The law provides for a maximum sentence of up to five years for the conspiracy count, up to 20 years on the wire fraud count and up to ten years on the money laundering count. The statutes in question each also carry a fine provision of up to $250,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

The Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case. Police departments from the City of Pittsburgh, Ross Township and Shaler Township also assisted in the overall investigation.

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