Bryan Cohen Jun. 27, 2013, 6:45pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) -- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi praised Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday for his passage of House Bill 1173, the organized retail theft bill.

The bill, which is sponsored by state Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Ross Spano, both Republicans, increases penalties for individuals who commit organized retail theft.

Retail theft schemes typically involve criminals who steal thousands of dollars worth of products over a period of time before selling them online or at a flea market.

The National Retail Federation estimates that retailers lose more than $30 billion annually to retail theft. The Federal Bureau of Investigation considers retail theft a gateway theft committed by major crime rings who may use the proceeds to fund different illegal activity.

"Organized retail theft ultimately results in consumers paying the price for this illegal activity," Bondi said in a statement. "I applaud Gov. Scott for signing this bill, and I thank Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Ross Spano for their sponsorship of this important legislation that holds criminals accountable for organized retail theft."

The new bill increases the sentencing scoring guidelines for an organized retail theft offense exceeding $50,000. Enhanced penalties make the sentencing of organized retail theft on par with first degree grand theft. An individual convicted of retail theft at $50,000 or more would face a minimum sentence of 21 months in jail.

The legislation also adds language to the Florida Communications Fraud Act, making it clear that organized retail schemes have a five-year statute of limitations, similar to the five-year statute of limitations given to other charges of theft.

More News