Home Depot
Home Depot got a sales boost from US stimulus payments, as Americans used the pandemic to take on home improvement and gardening projects. Chris DELMAS/AFP

Home Depot, the popular home improvement store, is facing a severe issue with its rental department. Recent reports suggest that the store has fallen prey to several theft schemes, resulting in a loss of over $400,000. These allegations first surfaced through Court Watch, raising concerns about the store's security measures.

Earlier this month, prosecutors in Oregon charged a group of seven defendants, accusing them of conspiring in a plot to steal hefty machinery from Home Depot.

The scheme consisted of the accused renting and not returning the equipment. Instead, evidence suggests that the group sold expensive products at a cheaper rate on Facebook Marketplace.

The stolen equipment includes trenchers, stump grinders, and excavators.

Moreover, police reports show that the group of seven would go to the distributor's rental desk at store locations in Oregon, and the accused would also carry out their schemes in Washington and Colorado.

According to the indictment, the group have loaned the equipment using stolen credit and debit cards.

The stolen goods have also been sold on other online platforms, as noted in the court documents.

The prosecutors have since revealed that the rented equipment was borrowed under a one-day rental agreement. But, after renting the heavy machinery, the group turned off the GPS tracking devices and uploaded the items as "for sale" on Facebook and elsewhere.

In the past 12 months, there have been several theft cases across Home Depot stores, with one crime reported in Washington and two investigated by police in Florida.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's Office said that more than 11 Home Depots have been affected in approximately 25 incidents.

The case in Florida saw prosecutors sentence a man to eight years imprisonment. The man was charged with leading a crime network that rented more than 60 pieces of heavy equipment. These were never returned, and Home Depot lost over $1 million.

According to a report published by the local Fox affiliate, court officials have since revealed that, unlike the group of seven, the man sentenced in Florida used his actual ID when borrowing equipment.

In March of this year, Florida's Attorney General also brought charges against another man who carried out a similar scheme. Over 20 pieces of equipment were stolen this time, and the crimes cost Home Depot more than $460,000.

In a recent earnings report, Home Depot called the theft "unacceptable."

In August last year, Home Depot CFO Richard McPhail told analysts: "In the second quarter, our gross margin was 33%, a decrease of eight basis points from the second quarter last year, primarily driven by pressure from shrink."

"Shrink has been a consistent pressure over the last several quarters and even the last few years. It's something we're tackling every day," he added.

In response to shoplifters, Home Depot has turned to increasing its store security measures, including locked display cabinets and power tools that require store activation and approval after purchase.

This news comes after Home Depot and other retailers have urged US authorities to launch a crackdown on theft crimes nationwide.

According to the National Retail Federation's annual Retail Security Survey, the crimes cost the retail sector an estimated $41 billion in 2022.