ROXBURY, NJ - Two men who scammed Walmart stores in several states - by returning for money batteries that were stolen - were caught and arrested earlier this month when they attempted the scheme in Ledgewood, police said today.
A third man purportedly involved in the practice was on the lam, but police said they know his identity and expect to find him.
The investigation began on June 16 at about 7:50 p.m. when Roxbury officers were called to the Ledgewood Walmart, police said.
“The caller reported seeing a Hyundai Santa Fe with Indiana plates in the parking lot, with shopping carts full of batteries,” said a statement from Roxbury police. They said Roxbury Police Sgt. Matthew Holland went to the store and saw two men, one later identified as 18-year-old Detrae Mcrae of Dearborn Heights, Mich., loading car batteries from a shopping cart into the rear of the Hyundai, police said.
“As Sgt. Holland approached them, the unknown male immediately fled on foot across the parking lot towards Commerce Boulevard,” police reported. “Sgt. Holland was detaining Mcrae when a male, later identified as Adarius Ferguson, 26, of Benton Harbor, Mich., exited the Walmart, saw Sgt. Holland and also fled on foot.”
Police said Holland broadcast over his radio a description of both males. They said a Walmart employee then came out of the store and told the sergeant that the man who fled on foot had tried to return for a refund what were believed to be stolen car batteries.
Shorly afterward, Roxbury patrolmen Jon Edmunds and Scott Weaver, accompanied by two officers from the Mount Arlington Police Department, responded to a report of a suspicious man in the area near the Ramsey Outdoor store in Roxbury Mall, police said.
Mount Arlington Police Patrolman Joseph Parichuk told other police that he saw a man, who fit the description of Ferguson, enter the nearby Succasunna ShopRite, police said. Parichuk, Mount Arlington Police Patrolman Gregory Shallop and Roxbury Police Lt. Dan Murray then found and detained Ferguson inside the grocery story, police said.
“A quick and thorough investigation” revealed that Mcrae, Ferguson and the man who got away came to New Jersey from Michigan “to off-load stolen car batteries,” police said. “It is believed they purchased car batteries legally and then would return the stolen batteries with the receipt they just received.”
The men were found to be in possession of five stolen car batteries, police said. They said their probe revealed the trio, on the same day, returned stolen car batteries at 10 Walmart stores in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey “and were ultimately caught at the Roxbury Walmart, which was believed to be their last stop.”
Mcrae was charged with criminal attempt to commit theft, conspiracy to commit theft and receiving stolen property, police said. They said Ferguson was charged with criminal attempt to commit theft, conspiracy to commit theft, receiving stolen property, hindering and obstruction.
Both men were taken to the Morris County jail pending a bail hearing, police said. They said the third man was not apprehended, but they said they are “aware of his identity through the investigation and future criminal charges are pending.”
Roxbury Police Chief Mark Palanchi said “the excellent working relationship between Roxbury and Mt. Arlington in conjunction with solid police work led to the quick apprehension of these individuals.”