Since 2004, the NRF Loss Prevention Awards Program has honored and acknowledged law enforcement officers, loss prevention professionals, law enforcement agencies and retail companies who have impacted their community, the industry and deserve nationwide recognition.
Recipients are announced for the awards at NRF PROTECT Loss Prevention Conference each year.
Read the press release to learn more about the 2019 honorees.
Ring of Excellence Award
The Ring of Excellence Award is a recognition program for loss prevention professionals whose achievements and outstanding leadership have shaped the industry. The award recognizes pioneers in the loss prevention community whose honor, integrity and character serve as an example for the LP industry. Inductees to the Ring of Excellence can be honored in person or posthumously.
This year’s recipient is Gus Downing, president of Downing & Downing, an executive search and consulting firm he founded in 1983 that has helped retailers hire more than 2,800 LP executives. Downing is also publisher and editor of the D&D Daily e-newsletter, which specializes in retail loss prevention and IT security news. He is a second-generation retail LP expert who began his career in 1973 working for a security firm run by his father, Gus Downing Sr., a pioneer in the LP industry. He has held LP leadership roles at retailers including the Children’s Place, Lerner Shops and Gold Circle Stores. Watch the award presentation below.
Last year’s recipient was the late Bob MacLea, who had more than 40 years of experience as a loss prevention expert. MacLea worked his way through the ranks at The TJX Companies Inc., beginning as a security guard at Marshalls in 1975 and eventually becoming senior vice president of loss prevention in 2010. MacLea died in March 2018 after a battle with cancer, but his compassion for others left a lasting impact on many in the loss prevention community. Long an advocate for the profession, MacLea was a founding member of the Loss Prevention Foundation and the Loss Prevention Research Council as well as an active member of the NRF LP Council.
Last year’s recipient was Gene Smith, founder of the Loss Prevention Foundation and former president of Downing & Downing, a human resources firm specializing in LP staff development, in recognition of his more than 40 years of experience and his work to develop the industry’s Loss Prevention Qualified and Loss Prevention Certified designations.
Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Award (LERPA)
The LERPA award acknowledges law enforcement professionals or agencies who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support the retail industry in combating fraud and other types of losses.
This year’s honoree is Department of Homeland Security Special Agent John Willis, who was recognized for his work during a 10-year investigation into an organized retail crime group based in San Diego that targeted specialty retail stores. Bringing together multiple retail investigators and law enforcement agencies, Willis’ work led to the 2017 arrest and conviction of 15 suspects and helped reduce violent theft incidents at shopping malls throughout Southern California. The investigation, which recovered approximately $500,000 in merchandise stolen from more than 50 retailers, has been used as an example of successful collaboration between retail and law enforcement in combating ORC losses.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Daniel Haier was presented with the LERPA last year for his work in targeting and identifying a New York City organized retail crime crew that used false identities and stolen credit cards to steal high-value products. Haier coordinated with retailers and law enforcement who used GPS tracking devices and digital evidence that led to the prosecution of 16 individuals. His efforts have led other asset protection teams and law enforcement to empty similar strategies in targeting organized retail crime.
NYPD Lt. Tarik Sheppard received the award for his efforts to create the New York Metro Organized Retail Crime Alliance in 2014 while head of the Grand Larceny Analytical unit. The unit works to identify pattern crimes and pattern crime offenders, and Sheppard recognized the extent of organized crime in retail thefts while working there.
Loss Prevention Case of the Year Award
This award is the premier recognition program for Loss Prevention professionals, recognizing LP investigators whose work has made a significant impact on their company, the community and industry.
The winner was the Louis Vuitton Americas Asset Protection Team, which worked alongside law enforcement agencies in multiple states over a five-month span to identify theft patterns and likely targets. The investigation led to charges against two organized retail crime culprits with 22 known thefts that had cost Louis Vuitton more than $239,000 in losses.
The 2017 recipient was FBI Special Agent Kevin Kohler, who uncovered a multi-state crime ring that placed fraudulent bar codes on high-value products, intentionally lowering prices and inflicting losses exceeding $200,000. Kohler played an integral role in the investigation by securing crucial evidence, and in a matter of two months was able to arrest the head of the group. Going beyond the retail fraud that initiated the case, the investigation also led to charges of child pornography and sexual exploitation of minors, resulting in the rescue of several children from a predator. The ringleader was sentenced to 70 years in prison without parole.