Police have charged a Jackson woman with six counts of shoplifting, as well as possession of drug paraphernalia, in connection with six separate shoplifting incidents that occurred in Ocean Township recently.
The defendant, 34-year-old Jackson resident Margaret M. Vannell, was arrested on Friday, January 8th, after a shoplifting incident occurred at a Target store located in Ocean Township. According to Ocean Township Police Detective Lieutenant Timothy R. Torchia, officers arrived at the scene at approximately 6:24 p.m. after receiving a report of a suspect who was stealing various electronics and a vacuum cleaner from the store.
Witnesses at the scene identified the suspect as Margaret M. Vannell, telling officers that she had just recently fled in a taxi. Further investigation led officers to the Asbury Park Train Station, where Vannell was taken into custody. Shortly thereafter, police connected Vannell to 5 other shoplifting incidents at various businesses in Ocean Township, the details of which remain undisclosed.
Vannell is now facing charges for shoplifting and possession of drug paraphernalia. The specific circumstances of this case are significant, as they will have an extraordinary impact on the penalties to which Vannell is exposed if convicted. Under New Jersey Statute N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11, shoplifting is a crime subject to gradation, which means that the estimated value of the stolen property determines the degree of the charges in a given case.
For example, shoplifting offenses involving merchandise valued at less than $200 are considered disorderly persons offenses, which are adjudicated at the local municipal court in the municipality where the alleged offense occurred (in this case, Ocean Township Municipal Court), and punishable by a sentence to serve up to 6 months in the county jail, as well as a fine of up to $1,000, the potential for restitution payments to the retailer, and community service.
On the other hand, when a shoplifting offense involves merchandise valued between $200 and $500, the charge is enhanced to a fourth degree felony, which is adjudicated at the Superior Court in the county in which the alleged offense occurred and may result in an 18-month New Jersey State Prison sentence. The degree of the charges and associated penalties become more severe as the value of the property increases.
It is important to note, however, that the state may elect to aggregate separate shoplifting offenses, thus adding the values of the property involved in each crime, to arrive at a more serious charge against a defendant. In order to do so, they must have sufficient evidence to establish a “course of conduct,” meaning multiple instances of behavior that follows a similar pattern. Whether or not the charges are aggregated in this case remains to be seen.
For additional information related to this case, access the following article: Jackson woman stole from 6 businesses in Ocean Twp., police say