Burglar to veterinarians: Don’t display lavish stock of flea-tick products

Prisoner shares his views in letter

July 13, 2017 (published)
By Edie Lau

Timothy Ross

Timothy Ross
Photo courtesy of Knox County District Attorney General's Office
Timothy Ross, an admitted veterinary clinic burglar, observes that flea- and tick-control products for pets have a "phenomenally" high resale value.

Writing from a state prison in Tennessee, Timothy Gayton Ross has this advice for veterinarians who sell valuable flea, tick and heartworm control products in their clinics: Don’t show it off.

An extravagant display, especially one visible through a window, makes the clinic a target for theft, Ross warns.

He speaks from first-hand knowledge. Ross pleaded guilty in February to burglarizing a veterinary clinic near Knoxville, Tennessee, and is now serving a six-year sentence. The incident in which Ross was caught was one in a series of break-ins of veterinary clinics in Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia in 2015.

Law enforcement authorities estimated that $700,000 worth of pet parasite-prevention treatments were stolen collectively. Some practices were hit more than once.

Common wisdom says thieves target veterinary clinics to score narcotics and other controlled substances. That wasn’t the case here. The allure was pet pest-control products such as Frontline, Advantage, Bravecto, Comfortis and Nexgard, which easily cost $10 to $20 or more per month’s dose, even from discount online pharmacies.

Curious how Ross became involved in illicit pet-parasiticide markets and whether he was working with an organized ring, the VIN News Service sent him a letter in prison:

“[We are] interested in learning why pet flea-and-tick and heartworm-prevention medications have a high street value. Who or what gave you the idea to target these products for resale? Who did you resell them to, or plan to resell them to? Why would someone want these products and not, for example, controlled drugs, which also are kept at veterinary hospitals?”

Ross replied with a three-page handwritten letter dated May 23. Here is the full text:

I will try to answer some of your questions you have posed to me. First, let me explain about why I strove to such lengths as theft and burglary. After the accidental death of my father on March 17, 2015, I became immersed into alcohol and drugs, specifically, heroin. I was so angry and bitter that he was struck down by an accident, then an infection due to hospital negligence, that I turned to mood altering chemicals.

As to how and why the idea developed, I saw the value that OTC flea/tick pet medications retained on, such as Frontline and Advantix. Many pet owners would quickly purchase these expensive products at only “slightly” reduced prices. As a reporter with the VIN, surely you comprehend the values of said products.

The biggest and most fundamental flaw of veterinary services is the lengths most of these places went to to advertise these pet medications. What is the first thing you see at the reception/secretary desk? An abundant, usually extravagant, display of many boxes in all weights for cats and dogs, often even viewable from the exterior of a building. Most people know the expensive cost of animal flea/tick maintenance. So, either on Amazon or at a local flea market, when these products are offered just a few dollars below market value … well, who doesn’t like to save money?

Back to the flaw mentioned before, I simply entered the targeted place to inspect the availability of mass quantities on display. It is absurd, boastful, ridiculous and inherently stupid! to display thousands of dollars of product just to push these products at their inflated prices! Why search for small amounts of controlled substances (drugs) when tens of thousands of dollars worth of product are on display near the front door?

I’m not trying to be condescending but to simply stress the absurdity of the hubris of some of these places. Would simple posters be more advantageous? Or a small amount — say, one box of six months-supply at each weight available? I am not an expert on advertising of products, but these things should ultimately be considered to avoid such huge losses of product. So, even if you had one of the best alarm systems available, which most did not even have one, I simply had to circumvent the door then proceed to take as much of the thousands and thousands of dollars of products (on display!) in 60 seconds. I didn’t have to waste time searching for inexpensive controlled drugs with so much on display.

The resale value retained by these products is phenomenally higher than most products. Granted the DEA-controlled products like Trifexis, Nexguard, Heartguard [sic], Revolution, some Advantix/Advantage II, [editor’s note: these products are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or Environmental Protection Agency, not the Drug Enforcement Administration] are harder to resale on Amazon, since Amazon will “pull” these items from sale, but they are still easily sold at flea markets or large vending spots.

And I still haven’t mentioned some of the veterinarians … If I could sell you these products at ½ of the manufacture’s price, thus doubling your profits, which you then take out of the DEA-stamped box (with black light stamp) and put into a container with your personal veterinary label …

Again, granted the majority of hospital/clinics are NOT owned by criminally-minded individuals, but there are always some. I’m sure most veterinarians chose their field because of their affinity and love of animals without regard for how wealthy they would become. These places/individuals don’t lavish the majority of their profit on the building or its advertising of their services. But unfortunately, in our sinful world, some are focused only on self.

I was one of those individuals. I hurt a great number of caring individuals with my actions to steal to support my drug habit. But I digress. Let some of this serve as a reminder of what NOT to do. DO NOT DISPLAY tens of thousands or even thousands of dollars of product in plain sight. People who visit veterinary hospitals and clinics recognize the value of these products, even the ones “by prescription only,” without having it shoved in their faces or lauded about.

On the night of my arrest in Knox County, TN on September 19, 2015, I had in my possession a bit over $24,000.00 (retail value) that I acquired in less than 60 seconds. It was displayed just 5 ft inside large glass windows. This could have been avoided by not keeping so much product on display. What advantage does such a large display have? Do I think this this the best because you have so so much on display? (I’m sure you see my sarcasm!) But small preventive measures can be taken — just display one box of each weight! Not cases and cases of each. Regardless of alarms, this would allow most of them to avoid being targeted.

I hope this answers your questions. If you still have more, contact me at the new address on envelope. May God forgive me for my heinous crimes against those who care for God’s creatures!

The VIN News Service replied to Ross with further questions, but more than one month later, has received no answer.

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