A bill making money laundering a felony and adding clarification to larceny crimes recently passed both chambers of the General Assembly and now awaits a signature on the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper. 

The bill would add a felony law to the North Carolina criminal code for money laundering, which involves individuals or organizations knowingly conducting criminal activity with funds over $10,000.

In addition, the bill makes minor changes to the laws surrounding retail crime and expands the definitions to cover novel approaches to defrauding retailers. For example, one advanced retail theft approach involves using fake price codes to obtain an item at less than its actual sale price.

Under current state law, a person is guilty of a felony if they remove or deactivate an anti-shoplifting control device. However, the updated language includes not just the removal of security tags but also shelving, security cameras, and security systems a merchant utilizes to prevent larceny.

According to the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association, the bill was developed in coordination with legal experts, including lawyers and law enforcement. The NCRMA notes that theft impacts not just businesses, but also consumers, who bear the financial burden.

“The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association commended the North Carolina General Assembly for unanimously passing House Bill 495 to clarify and modernize North Carolina’s criminal laws addressing organized retail crime, which increases costs for consumers,” said Andy Ellen, NCRMA president and general counsel. 

While retail theft laws are already enforced in North Carolina, some states face ongoing struggles with retail theft, as seen in viral videos, largely because district attorneys have adopted policies not to prosecute certain crimes. Los Angeles and San Francisco are the top two cities in the nation for Organized Retail Theft (ORT), according to the National Retail Federations 2023 crime survey. Fortunately, district attorneys holding back punishment has not been a widespread issue in North Carolina.

The most frequently targeted ORT items nationwide in 2023 were accessories such as backpacks, handbags, hats, jewelry, and sunglasses. Calculated losses in 2022 represent $112.1 billion, up from $93.9 billion in 2021.

“The provisions of House Bill 495 were developed in consultation with district attorneys, law enforcement and retail loss prevention professionals and build upon several years of bipartisan legislation to fight organized retail crime that continues to plague retailers and North Carolina consumers they serve,” Ellen added.

The legislation passed the House this week after approval from the Senate last week. The legislation now awaits signature from the governor.