This year for a period of four months, the Walmart on Lexington Road has had thousands of dollars worth of DVD and Blu-ray movie discs stolen from the store. Athens-Clarke County police believe they have identified three suspects who are responsible.
As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, following the thefts that were reported in July, Athens-Clarke County police Detective Nathaniel Franco said he found that similar thefts had been reported at a few other north Georgia Walmart stores.
Working in teams of three, Franco said that one suspect acted as a lookout while another removed a large item from its box and later filled the box with DVDs and Blu-ray discs.Then the third suspect came into the store, located the box full of discs and purchased it.
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In each of the thefts the suspects took out a crock pot from its box and filled that box with discs, only paying for the cost of the crock pot.
According to Walmart’s website, a crock pot sells for as little as $15.99, but the box can hold dozens of DVDs and Blu-rays that can cost up to $25 per disc.
During the most recent shoplifting incident on Nov. 2, the thieves had gotten away with 73 discs with a total value of $1,788 and just a month prior a similar theft had occured, police said.
“This type of shoplifting is organized retail crime.” Franco said. ”… This group is very organized and they can hit multiple stores in a single day, stealing thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise.”
Franco believes the suspects take the stolen items to an intermediary who either sells them to a pawn shop or at a flea-market. There is an investigation to determine if the three Athens suspects are part of a larger organization.
Following the most recent shoplifting incident, Franco contacted law enforcement agencies in Atlanta and northeast Georgia. He discovered that the same group of thieves hit several Walmarts in Milton, Cleveland, Toccoa, Clayton, the Atlanta metro area and possibly Oconee County.
Shoplifting becomes a felony if the value of the stolen items is over $500 or if the offender had at least three previous misdemeanor shoplifting convictions.
With the suspects’ identities confirmed from Walmart surveillance camera footage and with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, Franco said he is hoping to obtain felony warrants soon.
Police identified the suspects as Damarann Washington, 24; Markez Heard, 23; and Irja Jones, 24.
Although police did not have current addresses for the suspects, they believe the suspects targeted Walmarts away from where they resided.
“The suspects could be targeting other states, but our investigation is focusing on Georgia,” Athens-Clarke police spokesman Geof Gilland said.