The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 29, 2008

Wal-Mart employee charged with grand theft for stealing gift cards

By STACY MILLBERG - Staff Writer - smillberg@starbeacon.com

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — A 19-year-old Wal-Mart employee has been charged with felony grand theft after stealing gift cards from the store and using them to buy merchandise.

Tabitha M. Tatakis of Ashtabula was arrested Friday after a lengthy internal investigation by Wal-Mart’s asset protection manager Kelly Pocatko. The incident came to light Nov. 4 when the assistant manager on duty reported a problem with an Applebee’s gift card that had been sold at the store, but had not been activated, according to Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department reports.

Pocatko checked the history on the card and found that Tatakis had sold the card. After reviewing the store’s security tape, Pocatko saw Tatakis activate the gift card, then placed it under her sweater that was next to the cash drawer. She then went to the shelf, picked up another gift card for the customer and faked the process of activating the card, giving the customer the non-activated gift card, according to reports.

Pocatko then began monitoring Tatakis’ sales activity and discovered nine other instances where she took gift cards of various amounts after faking activation of a card and giving it to customers, according to reports. In all 10 instances, Tatakis reportedly used the gift cards to purchase merchandise at Wal-Mart using her 10 percent employee discount card. The total amount in gift card theft was $559.78, according to reports.

The thefts reportedly took place between late October and December. Friday, Pocatko spoke with Tatakis regarding the theft and she admitted to stealing the gift cards. Tatakis also admitted to letting her friends use her employee discount card on several occasions, according to reports.

Tatakis was terminated from her position at Wal-Mart and when Pocatko cleaned out Tatakis’ employee locker, she discovered an unopened iPod Nano in the locker that was still listed as current inventory at the store. Tatakis told Pocatko she put the item in her locker, but intended on paying for it at a later date. The item was returned by a customer earlier in the day, according to reports.

Tatakis also admitted the theft and fraudulent use of her employee discount card to deputies. She told deputies she stole the gift cards to buy Christmas presents for her son. Wal-Mart officials tracked eight instances where Tatakis allowed her friends to use her discount card resulting in an additional $42.38 loss to Wal-Mart. The cost of the iPod Nano was $147.88. The total amount of the theft was $750.04, according to reports.

Tatakis was arrested without incident and when deputies searched her purse one of the stolen gift cards was discovered inside. Tatakis is being charged with one count of felony grand theft and two counts of misdemeanor theft, according to reports.