Alleged Wal-Mart scammer pleads not guilty

Published 7:39 am Saturday, April 15, 2017

A man involved in an alleged Wal-Mart scam that netted $5,000 worth of prepaid debit cards has pleaded not guilty.

Tyler Lamar Walker, 19, of Flint, Michigan, appeared in Mower County District Court Thursday on one count of felony theft by swindle.

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Three other men were named in the court documents as suspects; however, they had not been officially charged.

According to court records, Austin police were called to Wal-Mart, 1000 18th Ave. NW, at 6:37 p.m. on March 31 for a scam in which the suspects brought prepaid Visa debit cards to a register run by an inexperienced cashier.

They then told the cashier they’d pay for the cards using a cash card, but they’d tell the cashier to hit a certain button — which caused the sale to be recognized as a cash transaction — on the register to finalize the sale without the suspects actually paying for the cards.

Officers watched surveillance video where Walker and two other suspects arrived at Wal-Mart, walked through the store and returned to their 2008 Chevrolet Impala.

They then returned to the store, took four debit cards worth $500 each from the front of the store and went to check out at the sporting goods register, buying the cards and packages of T-shirts and underwear.

Walker paid with another card and told the cashier to hit the button.

Walker then gave the cashier six more debit cards to activate and buy, which the cashier did before beginning to leave the area. When another suspect gave the cashier even more debit cards to activate, the cashier went to a store manager, and the suspects quickly left the store.

Two other suspects entered the store a short while later, but they quickly left because Wal-Mart’s asset protection manager believed they overheard employees discussing the theft.

Police arrived and talked to the cashier — who had only worked at Wal-Mart for about a week — and advised Albert Lea police to be aware of the scam and watch for the suspects.

At 8:30 p.m. that night, Albert Lea police located the suspects, along with a female driver. The woman was detained by the Albert Lea Police Department for providing a false name to officers.

The four were taken to the Mower County jail. They gave officers varying stories, saying they were either visiting family, on a road trip or going to a spring break college party in North Dakota, and they claimed to stop in Austin to get cough drops or transmission fluid.

However, Walker reportedly admitted to getting the debit cards by scamming the cashier, and he said two other men went to repeat the theft but left because Wal-Mart was “going crazy.”

Walker is scheduled for a Aug. 31 pretrial and Sept. 11 trial.