The “Cologne Cowboy,” accused of stealing more than $1,800 in men’s fragrances, is the Columbus City Attorney’s latest Fugitive of the Week.
John Ferris Clark, 53, whose last known address was the Open Shelter on East Mount Street downtown, has five outstanding warrants for his arrest and is the latest case study in a growing trend that prosecutors have called “niche-market” shoplifting, according to the city attorney’s office.
Court records indicate Clark initially stole $135 worth of grilling equipment from a Far East Side supermarket Aug. 10, 2016, one day after being released from a nearly yearlong prison stint for felony theft.
About 8 p.m. Aug. 21, Clark allegedly stole 11 bottles of cologne worth a combined retail value of $715.88 from a Reynoldsburg supermarket.
Thirty-four minutes later, Clark appeared at a Whitehall supermarket and stole six bottles of cologne valued at $312.94.
About two hours later, Clark returned to the Reynoldsburg store and stole four more bottles of cologne estimated at $235.96.
The next day, Clark returned to the Whitehall supermarket and stole nine more bottles of cologne worth $569.91.
Because the individual thefts were less than $1,000, they are being prosecuted by the Columbus City Attorney’s Office. Anything more than that is considered a felony and is handled by the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.
Along with being a convicted serial thief with at least 17 prior theft charges against him, Clark’s past criminal record includes breaking and entering, felonious receiving stolen property, felonious drug possession, felonious violation of probation, illegal possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal trespassing, the city attorney’s office said.
Authorities continue to see “niche-market” serial thieves specializing in stealing large quantities of very specific products, according to First Assistant City Prosecutor Bill R. Hedrick.
Hedrick said he has documented cases of individuals who strictly stole only Crest White Strips, Downton Abbey DVDs, Red Bull energy drinks, Dyson vacuum cleaners, high-end faucets, pickup truck tailgates, hospital scrubs, red meat and men’s cologne.
Anyone with information on Clark should call Hedrick at 614-645-8874 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gary Seman Jr./ThisWeek