Two Sarasota men charged with organized fraud for false returns to Walgreens

SARASOTA -- Two men were arrested on Thursday on charges that they went to 10 Walgreens in a two-day period using found receipts and stolen items to get cash for false returns, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies received an anonymous tip on Sunday that Evan Fried, 35, and Joseph Hochberg, 23, both of Sarasota, were committing retail fraud throughout the county, according to a release. The tipster said that Hochberg would go to Fried's residence in the 5300 block of Duncanwood Drive and the two would leave for retail stores at 11 a.m.

On Tuesday deputies arrived at Fried's residence and followed the two as they went to a Walgreens at 5800 Bee Ridge Rd. in Sarasota at 1:47 p.m., according to the report. Fried exited the vehicle, entered the store and stole a bag of almonds valued at $6.99, according to surveillance footage.

Hochberg then took the bag from Fried and walked into the store with a receipt and was given a cash refund of $6.99, deputies said.

Deputies observed the two go to 10 different Walgreens throughout Sarasota on Tuesday and Wednesday both picking up receipts in parking lots and trash cans discarded by previous customers and repeating the thefts and returns, according to a report.

The two received at least $64.49 in cash over that period, deputies said.

Both were charged with one count each of organized fraud, according to a release.

Fried has more than a dozen arrests for multiple theft charges, burglary and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to deputies. Hochberg has prior arrests for larceny, dealing in stolen property and resisting a retail merchant.