The action began last Thursday (Oct. 7) at the Wal-Mart in Alliance, Ohio, when two sisters from Cleveland—Katurah and Staniel Petty—visited. The pair went to the back of the store, selected two higher priced pieces of software and "concealed them behind a large purse in the [shopping] basket," said Alliance Police Lt. Kevin Moore, who later saw the pair's activity on the store's video system. The Pettys then tried exiting the store without paying and the theft-detection system was activated. (Stick with me on this one. It gets a lot better.)
According to Moore, as security personnel were approaching, the Pettys pushed the cart—still holding the not-yet-paid-for software—into a cart parking area and then stepped out the door. When security stopped them, the two correctly said that they did not have anything stolen. Security shortly found the software in the cart, which was technically still in the store, meaning that it had not officially been removed from the store.
To explain the alarm, one of the sisters produced a hard-drive from another store, with the theft-detection tag still on it. The other store must have accidentally left the tag on, one sister said. (Moore said he had suspicions about whether the hard-drive had actually been stolen, but this story is complicated enough without going there.)
Here's where things get strange. Security, puzzled by whether a shoplifting charge would stick if the items never actually were removed from the store, opted to not pursue charges and let the pair go. But one of the sisters then called police, wanting to charge the Wal-Mart security folk with harassment and improper detention.Moore said this tactic is actually not uncommon; some people think that whoever calls the police first won't get charged. It didn't quite work out that way in this case. When the police arrived, Moore said, the women presented altered state identification cards. "On the back is a magnetic strip and she had mutilated that. And there was a scannable barcode" that had been scratched to be unusable and one of the sisters had "marked it up to change the letters and the numbers."
That prompted the police to re-review the video. Afterward, they concluded that a shoplifting charge would stick, because the two sisters had walked past the final POS station without paying. It was then that Katurah Petty said that she was pregnant (she wasn't) and that her water had broken (it hadn't, but the lack of pregnancy pretty much covered that).
Police took her to the hospital, where she refused to let the medical staff examine her. But, Moore said, she was a good enough actress to convince the medical team—and the police with her—that she was indeed about to give birth. The police let her go home, as she refused treatment, fearing that she could deliver in jail.
Meanwhile, police removed the car the pair had driven and discovered computer monitors and three Avery sticker labels, cut and shaped to match what Wal-Mart uses. Moore said the material discovered would typically be used to fabricate Wal-Mart receipts and then have the barcode match those numbers. This system was prompted by Wal-Mart's efforts to match receipt numbers with the barcodes of products being returned, Moore said.
The next day, Katurah Petty met with her parole officer. (Why a parole officer? It involved a Louisiana conviction for possession—with two co-defendants—of marijuana. Specifically, 30 pounds of marijuana. Petty was the driver.) She told her parole officer that she had never been pregnant and that she made it up to get out of going to jail.
Another boring day at Wal-Mart loss prevention.