Shoplifting ring specializing in Walmarts hits Fergus Falls store [UPDATED]Published 11:13am Monday, May 16, 2011 Updated 11:14am Monday, May 16, 2011
Police are in the process of rounding up a small shoplifting ring that hit Walmart stores in Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, Alexandria, Sauk Centre, and possibly other locations. The ring allegedly stole over $3,000 worth of merchandise from the Fergus Falls Super Walmart.
The five- or six-person ring specialized in stealing from Walmarts, according to Fergus Falls Police Detective Andrew Miller. Ring members trained themselves to avoid security cameras and figure out clever ways to steal from the stores.
“They’re somewhat of a (sophisticated) shoplifting ring,” Miller said. “We have nothing to lead us to believe that they had any help by any Walmart employee locally.”
Samantha Ann McCulloch, 23, of St. Cloud, is the first person charged in Otter Tail County for the thefts. Police have not released the names of the other suspects, but they said they do know who the other alleged ring members are.
McCulloch was arrested on Thursday and was released Friday on her own recognizance and a guarantee that she will show up for her next court hearing. She is charged with two counts of felony theft.
Fergus Falls Police first began investigating the ring on Sept. 10, 2010, when a Walmart employee contacted them to report the theft of two car stereos and an amplifier on Sept. 3, according to court records. Five people, allegedly including McCulloch, were caught on security cameras making off with the electronics, which they concealed on their persons.
On Sept. 24, some of the same shoplifters struck again, stealing a printer and a Blu-Ray player from the store. They didn’t return after that until December, when they allegedly stole almost $2,000 worth of electronics between two trips to the store on Dec. 8 and 15. On the 15th, they allegedly took two GPS devices, a digital camera, a flash drive and a computer screen protector. To steal the camera, one of the thieves would have needed an “alpha key” used by store employees to secure items that have been chained to shelves. Police are unsure how the ring obtained one of the keys.
The thieves allegedly returned to Walmart on Jan. 8 and 11 to steal more items. McCulloch then allegedly tried to make fraudulent returns on two of the items they had taken, a vaporizer and 150 ounces of Tide laundry detergent. A license plate number was identified for McCulloch’s car, after which a Walmart employee was able to pick her out of a photo lineup.
The complaint stated that the members of the ring appeared to be very familiar with Walmart security, including the placement of the security cameras. They always were sure to park McCulloch’s car in areas of the parking lot that were hard to see in security footage, and when they were in the store they made sure to look down or away from cameras in order to obscure their faces.