LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A Las Vegas company, still reeling from the pandemic pain afflicted to the live-entertainment industry, says they believe an interstate crime ring is ripping off expensive audio and visual equipment in an elaborate scam.
For more than a year, the pandemic has darkened stages and changed the entertainment landscape.
Performers, artists, and musicians have canceled engagements and that has led to a major slow down in business for companies that supply the items for live entertainment.
The COVID-19 curtain call and resulting disaster are still fresh in the mind of Forrest Grosz, owner of Grosz Live Productions in Las Vegas.
"We had enough shows on the books, we were probably going to do double what we did in 2019," explained Grosz.
But by the middle of March 2020, business evaporated, seemingly overnight.
"It definitely was a dark time for our business," added Grosz.
"Just to be kicked while we were already down, it was pretty tough," said Grosz.
A few months into the pandemic, Grosz says live-streamed events grew in popularity because many people were inside and under lock-down restrictions.
His business fielded a rental request for such a live-streamed event for approximately $60,000 dollars worth of equipment.
The delivery was set for a rented venue in downtown Las Vegas.
"It seemed legit, they had a venue," explained Grosz.
But that, he believes, is step one in an elaborate theft.
13 Investigates obtained surveillance video which shows one of the individuals involved, arrive at the venue to check-in.
Once settled, the rented equipment is dropped off and brought inside the lobby.
The video shows one of the Grosz Live Productions employees asking what time the items needed to be picked up the next day.
"10 a.m. tomorrow?" the employee asks.
"Correct," says the individual who wore a Bon Jovi shirt and a face covering.
After the employee departs, the security shows a rental van shows up several minutes later.
The surveillance video captures another quick exchange between the thief and another individual inside the venue.
Unknown man: "You gotta carry all this up there?"
Suspect: "Actually, my boss just called me, we got the wrong equipment, so I got to put it in this van and take it all back."
The thief and another person are then seen trying to load the equipment inside the van, but struggling to maneuver the large travel cases.
More video shows the items removed from the travel cases and left inside the lobby.
More exchanges and explanations can be heard:
Suspect: "The [sound equipment] company, they are on the way to pick up the cases, because I can't fit them all on the van, so they should be here in a couple of minutes."
The video shows the thief taking candies from a dish on the counter and then leaving the building.
The next day, GLP returned to retrieve the equipment, only to find the empty cases.
"It started to add up and become reality that we just had been had," said Grosz.
Grosz filed a police report but also launched his own investigation.
He went on social media and found red flags from industry Facebook pages and groups.
"12 other companies, I found, throughout the United States, that have been hit by the same MO, the same description, they did the same thing, stolen credit cards, fake IDs," explained Grosz.
"I know there's a lot of crimes out there to deal with but I think that there's value in attacking the small fish because they become the big fish," said Ty Hansen of AV Vegas.
Just weeks ago, 13 Investigates reported AV Vegas suffered a nearly identical loss.
Thieves ripped off almost $30,000 worth of expensive rental equipment.
In that case, the pair of thieves used a limousine to load the equipment and transport it to a Henderson storage facility.
From there, a rental van was used to take the items across the state line into California.
So far, no arrests in that case.
"We have been contacted by police departments out of Southern California as well, a different police department and they heard of the multiple thefts, they heard of it happening recently and they knew we were part of the ring," explained Grosz.
Grosz says he searched auction sites and located some of his stolen equipment for sale.
He says law enforcement proved helpful to an extent, but the majority of the equipment was not recovered and the case does not appear to be working toward any arrests or conclusion.
Similar thefts keep happening and Grosz believes they are connected.