Stealing From A Wal-Mart? Better Not Drive A Rental

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A pair of accused Wal-Mart thieves in North Carolina learned a valuable lesson last week: If you're going to shoplift from the world's largest retailer, it's not a great idea to drive to the heist in a rental car.

It seems that as they exited the Havelock Wal-Mart with multiple yet-to-be-paid-for HP desktop computers, store officials did not stop them, but they did jot down their license plate number. Police found that it was from a car rental company, which happened to be able to remotely shut down the engine. And GPS was involved, too. Yep, this was a dual-shoplifter takedown, ultra-geek style.

The tale starts at 10:28 AM (New York time) on April 10 when Matthew Randall, 24, and Tommy Hairston, 32, walked into the Wal-Mart and placed HP desktops—with a combined pricetag of about $1,500—into shopping carts and simply pushed them through the front doors, according to Diane Miller, public information officer for the city of Havelock. Given Wal-Mart policy, no one in the store tried to stop them, although the license plate number was captured and relayed to the police.

The police quickly identified the car as a rental, and the rental company was able to remotely shut down the engine and then use the car's GPS unit to tell police where the dead vehicle was.

The car was apparently shut down in front of the pair's unit at a local hotel called The Hostess House. Police arrived and found Hairston and Randall staring at the car, which had its hood up, Miller said, adding that the two were apparently trying to figure out why the car wouldn't start.

Police found other items in the car that they determined had been stolen from other retailers, Miller said.

Wal-Mart's rules say an associate can't stop a shoplifter from the leaving the store, but there is nothing about stopping them after they leave. North Carolina police are apparently very efficient. They apprehended the two men in front of the Hostess House at 11 AM, barely a half-hour after the pair left Wal-Mart. (By the way, the vehicle they had rented was a red Mitsubishi Montero SUV. So much for being inconspicuous.)