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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Jonker: 'Stealing money without violence is still theft'

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Dec. 20 that U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker sentenced Adarius Ferguson, 31, of Benton Harbor, Mich., to 144 months in federal prison for his role in the criminal conspiracy carried out at hundreds of Walmart stores in 38 states. The sentence "marks the end of rampant crime sprees" by the seven individuals sentenced in the scheme, U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in the announcement.

The men stole more than $275,000 in electronics and executed $400,000 in fraudulent returns, the announcement reports. The elaborate plot involved the defendants purchasing expensive electronics such as Apple products, internet routers and iRobot vacuums while also stealing matching items. They then altered Walmart receipts for the purchased goods, used the altered receipts to return both purchased and stolen items and received a double refund.

“Brazen is exactly the way to describe what happened," Judge Jonker said at the sentencing, the announcement records. "People just piling up electronic equipment and walking out the front door, with the goal of going back in to ‘return’ the product."

Jonker said the whole community, not just the store, suffered because of the conspiracy.

"It’s all of the people that go to Walmart to buy things that now have to pay more for things because Walmart has to pay for the theft, somehow," Jonker said. "Stealing money without violence is still theft, it’s still serious, and it’s still something that people need to be accountable for.”

Totten said the crime affected hundreds of Walmart employees as well.

"Some store associates had Walmart keys stolen from their hands as they opened electronic cases for the defendants," Totten said in the report. "Others had their vests, name tags, and store radios stolen. One associate required emergency medical treatment after being assaulted during a theft. And countless Walmart employees were pressured by Adarius Ferguson while he made fraudulent returns.”

“My office is committed to intercepting and incapacitating fraudsters who threaten the integrity and safety of our communities and effectively raise the cost of goods for all consumers," Totten said.

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