Contributed File Photo: People continue to steal and defraud Walmart, which costs both consumers and the general public.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – A large proportion of the populace of the Gila Valley shops for a variety of items at the Walmart super store at 755 S. 20th Ave., but the one thing the store would look to have less of is those who steal. Every week, a new crop of police reports that involve local officers having to take time out of their shifts to handle shoplifters and other like criminals are posted from the Safford Police Department. The following is a sample of one recent three-day period.
On Jan. 6, an officer was dispatched at about 10:44 p.m. after an individual identified as Justin Pratt opened up a box of razor blades and used them to open other packages. A total of six items worth in excess of $200 were opened and were either not recovered or could not be resold. Pratt, who was also previously seen on surveillance footage at a Circle K stealing from that store twice on Jan. 3 and 4, said he stole from Walmart at the behest of his girlfriend. Pratt was given citations for criminal trespassing and shoplifting and was released.
On Jan. 7, an officer was dispatched at about 8 p.m. to the store and reviewed surveillance footage of what he believed to be Sean Hinton committing organized retail theft. According to the police report, Hinton was viewed placing various items in a plastic tote and in various shopping bags before attempting to leave through the Garden Center.
Hinton was contacted by a store associate, but he continued through the exit and loaded up the items in an SUV, where a female acquaintance awaited. The officer forwarded his report for follow up but noted he did not have a valid address for Hinton. The officer is seeking a charge of organized retail theft be levied against Hinton.
Approximately one hour after the incident with Hinton, an officer was dispatched to the store regarding a shoplifting suspect identified as Chad Yentsch. According to the police report, Yentsch was viewed on camera attempting to shoplift drill bits.
Yentsch was located in the electronics department and was found with the stolen item concealed in his pocket as well as a usable amount of methamphetamine. Yentsch was also found to have two warrants for his arrest – one for failing to appear in court on charges of driving on a suspended license and possession of drug paraphernalia, and one for assault. Yentsch was then booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on his warrants and for shoplifting and possession of a dangerous drug.
A second accomplice, identified as Ramon Arriaga, was with Yentsch and allegedly admitted to attempting to steal drill bits and a chisel. Arriaga was give a citation of shoplifting and was released at the scene.
On Jan. 9, an officer was dispatched at about 6 p.m. to the store after a man identified as Christion Begay had been caught attempting to steal a bottle of Malibu liquor. Begay was seen on surveillance footage handing the bottle to two other men, who put it in their backpack and left. Begay then returned for a second bottle of liquor and was apprehended while it was in his possession.
Begay, who is 20-years-old, admitted he is not allowed to possess alcohol and was cooperative during his interrogation. A small amount of marijuana and a grinder was found in his possession, and he was given citations for underage possession of alcohol, shoplifting, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia and was trespassed from Walmart. Begay was then released.
Just before 9 p.m. the same day, and officer was dispatched to the store regarding a shoplifting incident involving “skip scanning” where a customer literally skips scanning an item or items and places the goods into a grocery bag like they were scanned.
The suspect, Marissa Delgado, was seen on video surveillance committing the theft on Jan. 6. The case was forwarded for follow up and possible charges.
Ten minutes after the previous call, an officer was dispatched to the store regarding fraud after a man – identified as Kevin Taylor – reportedly stole items from the establishment on three previous occasions and returned the items each time for money. The theft and fraud reportedly occurred on Jan. 2, Jan. 4, and Jan. 8 and involved stealing an fraudulently returning items to receive nearly $200 over the three-day stretch.
The case was forwarded for follow up and charging.