Breaking News in the Industry: November 13, 2018

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Employee charged with theft of 1,000 iPads; Doctor says she is faking muteness

A doctor said Friday she believed Monique Bowling was “malingering” and a federal prosecutor called it “faking,” an alleged illness that struck her mute, evidence which may allow prosecutors to bring the woman to trial on allegations she stole more than 1,000 tablet computers from the city of Gary.

Dr. Amor Correa, a forensic psychologist for the US Bureau of Prisons, appeared Friday through video conference to testify in U.S. District Court about her evaluation of the 46-year-old Merrillville woman, who was sent this summer to a federal medical center in Texas for an in-custody mental health examination. Defense attorney Jeffrey P. Schlesinger requested the evaluation of Bowling in January after informing the court his client had gone mute, refusing to speak with him or anyone else.

Bowling pleaded not guilty to federal theft charges in November 2016 on allegations she stole more than 1,000 Apple iPads while employed with the city of Gary’s information technology department. Bowling also is  accused of cashing the pension checks of a former roommate after he died in September 2010.

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Correa told the court Friday she determined from a battery of psychological tests Bowling was “very likely” malingering her muteness. She said the test results were supported by staff observations. Correa said Bowling communicated through writing with staff members and doctors at the Texas facility. Bowling also attempted to activate a phone account at the facility and convinced another patient she befriended to send detailed emails to Bowling’s family members.

US Assistant Attorney Gary Bell used the word “faking” interchangeably with “malingering” several times while questioning Correa, but corrected himself after defense attorney Jeffrey P. Schlesinger asked him to use the terminology contained in Correa’s 11-page medical report. Malingering was defined in the report as “the intentional production of symptoms because of external incentives. All the evidence in this case supports malingering,” Bell said, adding later. “This is a big game.”   [Source: NWI.com]

Police identify multi-city shoplifting ring

Detectives in Louisiana with the Lake Charles Police Department’s Property Crimes Division reports that they have identified suspects in a shoplifting ring operating in Lake Charles. Police believe the suspects are also involved in several other shopliftings in Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Lafayette.

The group mainly targets retail stores that sell fire retardant clothing by walking into the store, grabbing as much clothing as they can, then walking out, according to information from Lake Charles police. Police say the suspects are rarely confronted but when they are, they threaten the employee with violence. They allegedly sell the clothing via Facebook and other online market place sites.

Police say members of the group include Jazmine Kiara Washington, 23, of Sulphur; Johnathan Bernard Nero, 21, of Lake Charles; Vandela Deshawn Thibodeaux, 25, of Lake Charles; and Adrianna Keonna Simmons, 21, of Sulphur. Lake Charles police say that this investigation is ongoing and are requesting the public’s assistance. The police request anyone with information regarding this investigation contact Lt. Todd Chaddick at 337.491.1324.    [Source: KPLC7 News]

Couple files $4M suit against retailer after being told they ‘fit the bill’ of shoplifters

A black couple is suing a Costco store in Maryland after police stopped them after an employee accused them of shoplifting. Barbara and Bahri Wallace told WJLA on Friday they were shopping at the Costco in Anne Arundel County in Maryland in May when they claimed they were being watched by management. In the 911 call obtained by WJLA, the caller claims there is a robbery in progress. “I need police immediately at the Costco wholesale,” the caller said, according to WJLA. “I have a robbery in progress. They’ve been here before. They just robbed the Glen Burnie Costco an hour ago.”

The Wallaces told WJLA that they were leaving the store when they noticed the police were behind them. “[Bahri] noticed there were police behind us,” Barbara told the news station. “So he said ‘The police is pulling us over’ and I said ‘Are they for us?’ He said, ‘Yeah they’re pulling us over. And I asked why they stopping us, he said ‘The manager at Costco suspected you guys of shoplifting.'” Police records obtained by WBAL-TV found that the officers were given a tag number that belonged to the couple’s truck. The records also found that police determined no crime had been committed and the Wallaces weren’t involved in a robbery. The Wallaces then went back inside to confront the white manager of the Costco.

“[The] manager came up. I said, ‘Did you call the police on us saying we were shoplifting?’ His response was, ‘You fit the bill.’ I said, ‘Fit the bill?’ And he said, ‘African-American male and female, and your wife is carrying a blue purse,'” Bahri Wallace told WBAL-TV. Costco executives told WBAL-TV the store manager was not racially profiling the couple and thought the couple matched the description of two other people shoplifting at other Costco stores because of Barbara’s blue purse. [Source: Newsweek]

Suspect ditched cops 3 times; busted for shoplifting

A Council Bluffs, Iowa, man who eluded police three times in August, and was apprehended as his fourth attempt to escape crossed into Omaha, was arrested Friday morning in Council Bluffs for shoplifting a pair of pants at Walmart. Shawn Landis Jr., 25, is being held at the Pottawattamie County Jail on $7,500 bond for charges of eluding law enforcement, possession of meth, driving while barred as a habitual offender, exhibition driving, theft and operation without registration.

According to Council Bluffs Police, Landis was spotted driving a spray-painted black Monte Carlo on Aug. 17, 18 and 23. The license plates on the car belonged to a white Cadillac, police said. Each time police spotted Landis, he would speed off — once reaching 98 mph — and escape. Bluffs officers were informed Landis had been pulled over by Omaha police near the Martha Street exit of I-80 after they spotted the car driving at normal speeds.

A Council Bluffs officer met Omaha police at the scene of the stop and asked Landis why he ran. Landis said a man he did not know gave him the car while at a friend’s house in Omaha. He claimed he was never in Iowa. “Based on the timeline of the vehicle going into Omaha, then being pulled over by Omaha police, Landis’ story is not possible,” the report states.   [Source: The Daily Nonpareil]

Couple sentenced in credit card fraud case

A couple from Manchester, Michigan, charged in a credit-card fraud case have been sentenced on reduced charges.
Logan Lynn Johnston, 25, was given credit for time served in jail when she was sentenced Nov. 2 in Lenawee County Circuit Court. Circuit Judge Margaret M.S. Noe also ordered her to pay $27,774.55 in restitution and not care for anyone who is disabled or 62 or older.

Justin Allen Johnston, 31, was sentenced Thursday in Lenawee County District Court to do four weekends at hard labor and 80 hours community service work. District Judge Laura J. Schaedler also ordered him to pay $13,887.27 in restitution.

Logan Johnston pleaded guilty in September to two counts of identity theft and single counts of possession of a financial transaction device and larceny in a building. All are felonies. Four felony charges of uttering and publishing in one case and charges of conducting criminal enterprises and larceny $20,000 or more in another case were dismissed.

Justin Johnston pleaded guilty Oct. 2 to a misdemeanor count of larceny less than $200. The plea agreement dismissed felony charges of conducting criminal enterprises, larceny $20,000 or more, identity theft and possession of a financial transaction device. The husband and wife were arrested in June after Tecumseh police investigated fraudulent credit-card charges made at an auto parts store in Tecumseh where Justin Johnston used to work.   [Source: Lenconnect.com]

Lowe’s isn’t the only retailer closing stores en masse; Here are 5 more

The retail store closing wave has already begun and the holiday season hasn’t even started yet.  Home improvement retailer Lowe’s said Monday it will shutter 51 lagging stores, including 20 in the US and 31 in Canada. The stores span across 13 states in the US and five regions in Canada. New Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison has wasted no time trying to cut costs by way of closing under-performing stores. In August, Ellison said he would shut the lights off at 99 Orchard Supply stores. Lowe’s only bought the home improvement retail chain in 2013.

With bricks-and-mortar retailers under siege from digital shopping giants like Amazon, shuttering stores en masse has become the new norm in the industry. Retail store closures touched a new high in 2017, with about 7,000 locations closing up shop. And 2018 has been no exception. Yahoo Finance takes a quick look at which retailers are tightening up:
Dollar Tree
Dollar Tree has closed 26 Family Dollar stores. Five Dollar Tree locations have closed, too.
Gap
The apparel retailer closed 38 Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy stores through the second quarter.
Abercrombie & Fitch
The young adult apparel retailer is on track to close up to 60 stores in 2018 between its various store formats.
Sears
After years of terrible sales and net losses, Sears Holdings will seek to close 142 stores. The Sears brand will see 78 stores close by year end. Whether the entire chain will be liquidated is still a great unknown. The company reportedly is nearing $600 million in new financing as a way to keep its shelves stocked during the critical holiday season.
Kmart
Meanwhile, Kmart will shutter 64 stores as part of the company’s restructuring plan.

[Source: Yahoo! Finance]

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