Five men who police say provided their customers with Sears catalogues and then stole ordered merchandise from a Washington Sears warehouse have been charged with grand larceny, Prince George's County police said yesterday.
Police believe that the scheme resulted in the theft of up to $80,000 worth of lawn mowers, refrigerators and other merchandise from the warehouse over a two-month period. All items were sold at half-price, police said.
The five men, two of whom were Sears employees, were specifically charged with the theft of $5,000 worth of Sears merchandise, police said. When they were arrested late Wednesday night, police said, they had in their possession eight lawnmowers, three clothes driers, one refrigerator, two air conditioners, one riding lawnmower, a cocktail table and lawnmower accessories.
A Sears spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday that "we had some inclinations that something was going on." It was a tip by an informant and two months of spot surveillance that enabled county detective Monty Studer to make the arrests, a police spokesman said.
Police said that once a prospective customer ordered an item, the order was relayed to a truck driver who in turn loaded the items on his leased truck at the Sears Roebuck & Co. warehouse, 2800 V. St., NE.
The truck was then driven to another location where the merchandise was transferred to a smaller vehicle that was then used to make the home delivery to the customer, police said.
It was approximately 10:30 p.m. Wednesday when Det. Studer and other county police officers observed one of the suspects as he drove a tractor-trailer that was leased by Sears to the 2100 block of Spring Holly Drive, in District Heights, police said.
A few minutes later the suspect was joined by four men who rode to the location in a U.S. government pick-up truck assigned to the U.S. Treasury Department, police said. The county officers watched the four men leave the pick-up truck and begin to unload merchandise from the Sears tractor-trailer, according to police.
It was at this point that Det. Studer and other county police officers moved in and arrested the five men, police said. All five were charged with grand larceny and one was charged with possession of a handgun, they said.
Arrested and charged were Charles E. Watson, 30, of 2103 Spring Holly Dr., District Heights; John Way, 30, of the 6000 block of Maria Avenue, Morning side; David E. Douglas, 35, of 1412 Madison Ct., Chillum; Theodore Herbert Jr., 31, of 4011 8th St. NW, and Robert D. Duncan, 36, of 2131 3d St. NE, police said.
Police said two of the suspects, Herbert and Douglas, were employees at the Sears Roebuck & Co. warehouse, while Way was an employee of the U.S. Treasury Department. Police said Watson worked for Jacobs Transfer, the company that Sears leased the tractor-trailer from, and Johnson was self-employed.
A police spokesman said county detectives are still investigating the case. He said there may be additional arrests at the Sears warehouse facility and that those persons who purchased stolen items face confiscation of those items and possible criminal charges for receiving stolen goods.