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Officer accused of stealing vacuum cleaner, instant oatmeal during off-duty security job at Walmart

A Maryland police officer stole a Dyson vacuum cleaner, instant oatmeal and two boxes of condoms during his off-duty security job at a Walmart store, according to Montgomery County Police officials and a statement of charges the department filed Sunday.

The officer, Jose A. Barahona, 25, of Silver Spring, took the items during “a continuing course of conduct” in the store in Germantown, according to court filings, which also state that store surveillance video shows that Barahona took additional, unknown items going back to late last year.

The officer, who joined the Montgomery County force four years ago, most recently worked patrol in the county’s Wheaton District. He has been suspended from duty, with pay, pending “the completion of this investigation and future court action,” police officials said in a statement.

Barahona faces three misdemeanor counts: theft scheme ranging from $100 to $1,500; theft in that same range; and theft under $100.

He could not be immediately reached for comment. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.

"This was a series of horrible decisions by the officer," said Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. "We are taking this case seriously and will investigate it to its fullest."

The investigation of Barahona began in February, when a Walmart loss prevention employee, who suspected that Barahona was stealing, contacted Montgomery County Police, according to court records. Sgt. Robert Rollins went to the store, spoke with the employee and watched surveillance video. He recognized his colleague on the video, according to court filings.

Robbins in the filings said he saw Barahona walking through the store at 10:35 p.m. on Feb. 2, a Friday, when he lifted the condoms, valued at $28.94, the Quaker oatmeal, valued at $4.33, and something that could not be identified from the video. Video showed the officer taking the items to his car and returning. Two hours later, surveillance cameras captured Barahona walking out with a Dyson DC33 vacuum cleaner, valued at $199, and putting it in his car’s back seat, the court records state.

“Barahona passed all working cash registers each time and failed to pay for any of the items,” Rollins wrote in court filings.

The sergeant spoke to a customer service manager at the store, who said he saw Barahona leaving the store with the vacuum. Barahona noticed that he was being watched, according to court records, and tried to hide behind a store display.

“When the manager pretended to turn his back,” Rollins wrote, “Barahona continued out of the store with the item.”

Rollins also spoke to a clerk, he wrote, who reported two other suspicious incidents.

In one case, the clerk said, Barahona asked her to open a locked case in the electronics section, which she did, but then she refused his request to remove security packaging from a Microsoft Xbox game system, valued at $399.

In the other alleged incident, according to the clerk’s account in court files, Barahona asked if he could return an iPhone case, valued at $80, which he’d ostensibly purchased from the store but did not appear on a receipt he produced.

Rollins and the loss prevention officer watched surveillance video for other times that Barahona worked in the store and spotted three additional suspicious events, including two alleged incidents in which he appeared to hold or conceal items in his ballistic vest, the court filings state. But because of the time that had passed, Rollins wrote, Walmart employees couldn’t determine what may have been taken.