The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 3, 2013

Deputies find cell phone deal so good it’s illegal

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON —  Charges are pending against a Wal-Mart employee suspected of selling expensive cellular telephones at bargain-basement prices to friends of a friend, according to the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office.

A 25-year-old Conneaut woman, who worked in the Ashtabula Township store’s phone department, is suspected of selling several Apple iPhone 5s valued at $600 at the contract price of $90 — but without the contract, deputies said. Wal-Mart is investigating and will present a report to the county prosecutor’s office for possible charges, deputies said.

The investigation began in February, when a co-worker informed management the woman was stealing food and beverages from the store and consuming them on the job. That inquiry, along with suspicious sales data, prompted store officials to expand their probe, deputies said.

Officials claim the woman sold a phone to an acquaintance at the contract price, but falsified the contract. Later, the man brought several people to the store to receive an identical deal, deputies said. The woman created bogus contracts for each “customer,” deputies said.

Store officials estimated their loss on the phones at $7,500, with another $600 to $800 in food and drink consumed by the worker.

The woman told deputies she received nothing in return for providing the phones, deputies said.