Two men plead guilty to stealing TV from Wal-Mart

Published 8:42 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

COURTLAND—Two Fayetteville, N.C., men pleaded guilty on Tuesday to stealing a flat-screen television from the Franklin Wal-Mart in a scheme that prosecutors said targeted stores throughout the area.

In the “double-purchase” scam Nov. 5, the men paid for one television and used the receipt from that purchase to steal a second one, Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke explained in Southampton Circuit Court.

“They did it three or four times that night at different Wal-Marts,” he said, noting that when police later searched the truck the men used, they found a map marked with area store locations.

Cooke said the store’s loss prevention officer saw three men taking part in the scam at the local store. Christopher A. Morales, he said, paid for one 32-inch television with an American Express credit card and then gave the receipt to a second person, who handed it off to Marcus Jermaine Bell. Bell then returned to the store, picked up a second set and left through the lawn and garden exit without paying for it.

After being contacted by the store detective, Officer C.A. Fellers of the Franklin Police Department tracked Morales down through the credit card company and spoke to him several times on his mobile phone that night, convincing him to come in and speak to police the next day.

Morales and Bell returned to Franklin Nov. 6, Cooke said, and were questioned at length about the scam.

Morales “consistently tried to minimize this as something not much worse than a shoplifting case” and tried to convince Fellers to charge him with only a misdemeanor, the prosecutor told Judge Westbrook J. Parker on Tuesday.

Both men were charged with two felonies, grand larceny and conspiracy to commit grand larceny. On Tuesday, Cooke declined to prosecute the conspiracy charges, and both men pleaded guilty to the grand larceny charges.

Bell, who had a formal plea agreement, was sentenced to five years, with five suspended, along with payment of court costs and restitution. A sentencing date was set for Nov. 18 for Morales.