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Friday, December 16, 2011

Walmartology: Crime in Consumerland 5

A Breach of Security

     On December 5, a customer at a Grove City, Ohio Walmart took his son to the restroom at one-thirty in the afternoon and waited outside near the electronics section of the store. The 9-year-old boy came out of the restroom and reported to his father that a man had held a cellphone under the stall to video tape or photograph him going to the bathroom. The father confronted this person who happened to be 28-year-old Okey Belcher, a Walmart store detective. Belcher denied video taping the boy, explaining that he had dropped his cellphone and was picking it up.

     After the police questioned the boy and Belcher, the officers acquired a search warrant for the suspect's cellphone. The search produced enough evidence to justify Belcher's arrest. He was charged with pandering obscenity involving a minor, a second-degree felony. Because Belcher's iPod contained 100 images of naked children, he was also charged with the federal crime of child pornography. Belcher admitted to a Grove City police officer that he had downloaded child pornography onto his laptop computer as well. A search of his computer revealed 100 digital films depicting juveniles engaged in sexual activity.

     Belcher is currently in state custody pending a hearing before a federal magistrate. If convicted of the federal charges, he could face up to twenty years in prison.

A Sticky Problem

     In Cartersville, Georgia, someone has been planting syringes in clothing sold at the local Walmart. Since November 29, eight needles have turned up in various garments. The syringes, found in the pockets of men's and women's pants, and in boxes containing bras, pajamas, and socks, are the type used by people with diabetes. Customers pricked by the needles risk hepatitis or HIV. The syringes have been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory for analysis.

Busting an Old Fence

     In 2008, when the police searched 66-year-old Marin Moreno's home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they found thousands of dollars worth of merchandise that had been stolen from Target and Walmart stores. Moreno pleaded guilty to paying shoplifters to steal designated items from the stores, merchandise he sold at a local flea market. In return for his plea to the fourth-degree felony of receiving stolen goods, the judge sentenced Moreno to probation.

     The police, in May 2010, arrested Moreno for possession of merchandise his shoplifters had stolen from Walmart and seven other stores. He was charged with racketeering and criminal solicitation. A judge revoked his probation on the 2008 case, sending him back to the Metropolitin Detention Cener to serve out that sentence. On December 8, 2011, after Moreno pleaded guilty to the racketeering and criminal solicitation charges, a judge sentenced him to nine years, suspending all but two. With good behavior and credit for time served, Morino will spend less than a year behind bars. Because the defendant had a sick wife who required care, the judge had gone easy on the old fence.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

     In Waldorf, Maryland, Walmart employees spotted 22-year-old Timothy Clark stuffing video games under his clothing. As soon as he hit the parking lot, police officers arrested Clark who was in possession of $635 worth of stolen video games and game accessories.

     Timothy Clark had picked the wrong day to steal from Walmart. The store was crawling with cops, fifty of them who were there shopping with underpriveleged kids who had been given gift cards by a local charity. As a bonus, the kids also learned that crime doesn't pay. (Why tell them otherwise?)

A Sad Story

     In December, police arrested Elizabeth Elisha Halfmoon inside a Tulsa, Oklahoma Walmart. She had been in the store six hours trying to manufacture methamphetamine from commerical fluids on sale. The arresting officer, in seizing the bottle containing the ingredients being mixed, suffered a chemical burn. Halfmoon said she was trying to cook meth in the store because she was too broke to buy the drug.

Bullets Over Walmart

     On Saturday afternoon, December 3, two police officers were involved in an undercover drug deal unfolding in the Walmart parking lot in Strongsville, Ohio. At some point in the transaction, a gunfight erupted between the narcs and two of the drug suspects. The gun fire sent Walmart customers ducking and running for cover. The gun play ended when a bullet struck one of the suspects, 27-year-old Lawrence McKissic. As the ambulance drove off with the wounded suspect, Walmart customers continued to come and go as though nothing had happened. The store remained open throughout the incident.

Boxstore Murder

     Lilia Blandin was having problems with her husband, Avery. On October 30, 2011, the police had charged him with criminal domestic violence after he allegedly punched her in the face and abdomen. The 38-year-old woman worked for the Woodforest Bank inside the Walmart store in Greenville County, South Carolina. At one-thirty in the afternoon on Saturday, December 10, Avery Blandin entered the store with a knife. Following a brief argument with Lilia, he stabbed her to death. He fled from the bloody scene but wrecked his car not far from the store. Deputy sheriffs took him into custody without incident.

     Customers at Walmart were appalled that the store remained open for business through the slaying and its aftermath. One shopper said, "I saw there was blood everywhere, on the ground, on the table, on the wall." Customers were kept away from the immediate crime scene which was not compromised by the management's decision not to let a murder interfere with Christmas shopping.


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