Computer hardware thieves caught red-handed in CloquetCloquet police arrested two people Tuesday, June 29, who allegedly purchased three computers with cash at the Cloquet Walmart store and then attempted to return them – minus their hard drives and RAM memory cards – to the same store less than an hour later.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Cloquet police arrested two people Tuesday, June 29, who allegedly purchased three computers with cash at the Cloquet Walmart store and then attempted to return them – minus their hard drives and RAM memory cards – to the same store less than an hour later.
Daniel William Goodremote, 37, and Debbie Marie Belland, 53, both of Grantsburg, Wis., were charged with felony theft of property with a value greater than $1,000 but not more than $5,000 last Thursday afternoon in Carlton County Court.
According to the criminal complaint, Cloquet Walmart employees had been notified by the Pine City Walmart store that, from March through June 2010, someone had purchased laptop computers and returned them to various Walmart stores throughout the state. Two days before the alleged theft in Cloquet, Pine City Walmart had sent photos of the person who had returned laptops, so an alert Cloquet employee recognized Goodremote when he came into the store.
Cloquet Police Sergeant Carey Ferrell was called to the store after Goodremote attempted to return the three computers, which he and Belland had purchased at approximately 1:30 p.m. June 29.
“The loss prevention person in Cloquet was really on the ball,” said Detective Darrin Berg, who is investigating the case. “He recognized them coming in and saw they were returning computers. So then he checked [the store’s video] and saw that they had purchased computers earlier, so he called the police.”
Sgt. Ferrell interviewed Goodremote inside the store as well as outside. According to Berg, when Goodremote refused to cooperate further, Ferrell arrested both suspects and had their vehicle towed to the Cloquet police station. Police reviewed video footage from Walmart, which showed both Goodremote and Belland purchasing the computers, then leaving the store and getting into a GMC Suburban truck. More video showed the pair driving to the end of the parking lot and parking the truck for approximately 45 minutes, before driving it back to the front of the store to return the computers.
When the computers were returned, it appeared the hard drives and other miscellaneous components were missing. Officers later executed a search warrant on the Suburban and found the three hard drives, three RAM memory cards and small tools that could be used for removing the screws on the laptops, as well as some other computer hardware. Police officers also found postal service boxes, bubble wrap and eBay Inc. literature, as well as MapQuest directions to several Sam’s Club stores in the Twin Cities region.
The estimated value of just the Cloquet Walmart’s hard drives and RAM cards was more than $1,000.
However, Berg noted Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in the region estimated similar losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Berg has been in touch with representatives from both the St. Cloud, Minn., and St. Croix, Wis., police departments, who are investigating similar crimes in their areas.
“The small picture is the fact that they were caught here in Cloquet,” Berg said. “The big picture looks like a multi-jurisdictional investigation, where several agencies have the same crime, but in different counties.”
Walmart corporate headquarters said they couldn’t comment on specifics of the case because the investigation is ongoing.
“Theft in our stores is taken very seriously, and we’re committed to taking appropriate measures to prevent it,” said Ashley Hardie, corporate spokesperson. “We will continue to aid law enforcement in their investigation.”
The Carlton County attorney’s office is currently prosecuting only the Cloquet case.
“I have to work with the other agencies to try to get any evidence that would be helpful for future prosecution,” Berg said, adding that the case could reach federal jurisdiction as well if he can prove they were using the U.S. Postal Service to transport the stolen items to buyers.
As of Wednesday, Goodremote remained in Carlton County jail, while Belland was out on bail. Both are scheduled to appear in court next at 9 a.m. Monday.