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Alleged Wal-Mart scammer held.

Byline: Kim Ring

EAST BROOKFIELD - A New York City man was arraigned yesterday after allegedly using a creative scam to steal Prilosec, Crest White Strips, Rogaine and Minoxidil from the Leicester Wal-Mart.

According to court documents, Martin L. Washington, 33, went into the store on March 30 and removed a baby's high chair from its box. He then placed the empty box in a cart and headed to the personal care aisles, where he loaded the high-priced items into the box. At the checkout counter, he paid for what the cashier thought was a high chair, and left the store.

It is not the first time Mr. Washington has been charged in such a case. He was arrested in North Reading earlier this year, and was picked up by police in Pennsylvania in December after about $8,300 worth of stolen items were allegedly found during a traffic stop.

According to court documents, Mr. Washington and various alleged accomplices are considered suspects in Wal-Mart thefts in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Ware police also plan to file charges against Mr. Washington and another man after a similar incident at the Wal-Mart store in that town on March 31.

"This is a very well-organized crime," Leicester Police Chief James J. Hurley said. "These people come in, do their shoplifting and they're right out. It's high volume. It's not someone stealing an iPod."

While police aren't sure what Mr. Washington and his alleged accomplices might be doing with the stolen goods, there is a market for such things, Chief Hurley said. Though there has not been a connection made to Internet sales of the products, a search of eBay shows hundreds of listings for Prilosec, Crest White Strips, Rogaine and Minoxidil; usually at a fraction of the retail cost.

Items can also be sold to other retailers, at yard sales and at flea markets, the chief explained.

Police were able to crack the case in part because Wal-Mart's loss prevention department and Sgt. Timothy Fontaine did "a great job," the chief said. He said police, and often retailers, communicate with one another and share information about the newest scams.

Leicester Wal-Mart workers reviewed security tapes, discovered their store had allegedly been targeted and provided enough information for police to track down Mr. Washington and issue a warrant for 37-year-old Ariel Judah.

Alert Ware Wal-Mart employees noticed the incident as it allegedly happened and were able to provide police with a license plate number from the fleeing car, Officer Sean Crevier said.

Once North Reading police caught up with the men, charges against them began mounting.

At his arraignment on charges of larceny of property valued at more than $250 and conspiracy yesterday in Western Worcester District Court, Mr. Washington was held in lieu of $10,000 bail.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 9, 2009
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