Hempstead County lawmen have broken up what is believed to be an organized group which has been stealing from a rural business in Blevins.
Three women have been arrested, and other arrests may be forthcoming, in connection with the systematic theft of a total of $5,600 from the Blevins Red-E-Mart through a credit/debit card scheme, Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton said.
Arrested and charged with theft of property and financial identity fraud, both Class C felonies, were Jennifer Lynn White, 31, of Blevins, an employee of the business; Kimberly Lawhon, 47, of Nashville, a former employee; and Patricia Ann Lancaster, 43, of Blevins, a current employee of the business, according to Singleton.
Investigation into the thefts began on New Year's Day when HCSO Deputy Matthew Dunham was dispatched to the business in response to a complaint by the owner, who told Dunham he had suspicions concerning an inordinate amount of credit card refunds.
“The owner stated that he noticed that there had been approximately $5,600 work of returns on credit cards,” Singleton said. “Hempstead County Investigator Justin Crane was assigned to the case, and discovered that, not only was one of the supervisors allegedly involved in the fraud and theft, another current employee and one former employee had also been refunding by allegedly scanning debit cards or credit cards from the store.”
White was arrested on Jan. 2, and Lawhon and Lancaster were arrested two days later. They were all taken to the Hempstead County Detention Center to await a first judicial appearance, Singleton said.
“More arrests could be forthcoming, depending upon the final outcome of the investigation,” he said.
In addition, Singleton said, Lancaster is being held by Hempstead County for extradition to Talladega County, Alabama, where warrants are outstanding for her arrest on numerous counts of theft of property and fraudulent use of a credit or debit card.
Singleton said that the $5,600 total allegedly stolen may increase, depending upon the outcome of additional investigation.