A Charles County man who police said was caught switching bar code stickers on store merchandise at Walmart is facing felony theft charges after his arrest Dec. 10.
The Calvert County Sheriff’s Office has identified the alleged thief as Paul Aaron Oburke, 41, of Waldorf. The thefts were alleged to have occurred at Walmart stores in Dunkirk and Prince Frederick, police reported.
Court records show Oburke, who is a military employee, was charged with theft scheme $1,500 to $25,000 and theft $1,500 to under $25,000.
According to a statement of probable cause filed in district court by Deputy Kamrhen Parks, he responded to a call of a reported theft at the Prince Frederick Walmart during the late afternoon hours of Dec. 10.
The store’s loss prevention manager told Parks he saw a male “taking bar code stickers out of his pocket and placing them on items.” The manager stated he then saw the male placing the items in a shopping cart.
The manager said while the male shopper was checking out, “he [loss prevention manager] observed a large quantity of items that added up to a very low amount.”
After inspecting the items, he noticed they had false bar codes on them, Parks stated. The loss prevention manager “took the shopping cart from the suspect.” The cart “was filled with collection sports cards,” the deputy stated. “The suspect then left the store and got into a blue Honda passenger car.”
The loss prevention manager told Parks he pulled off six fake bar codes that were in the suspect’s shopping cart, according to court documents.
“I went to the area where the suspect was last seen, and I observed a Blue Honda Civic was about to pull out of a parking spot,” Parks stated. The driver matched the description of the shopper the loss prevention manager had given the deputy.
During questioning, Oburke initially told Parks “that he only bought juice and spaghetti from Walmart and nothing else,” the deputy stated in court documents. Oburke reportedly told Parks “that his friend gave him bar codes to put on the collection sports cards he was trying to buy but ended up not buying them. [Oburke] advised the false bar codes would ring up the item at a much cheaper price. [Oburke] then took out a piece of plastic with laminated cut out bar codes on it. On the backside of the bar codes was adhesive so he could stick it to whatever item he was trying to buy. There were six bar codes on the plastic sheets,” Parks stated. The deputy reporting seeing several Walmart shopping bags in the front passenger compartment of Oburke’s vehicle. The defendant told Parks he had no receipt for proof of purchase.
“He admitted that he bought the cards from the Dunkirk Walmart,” Parks stated in court documents. “He advised he used fake bar codes to purchase the items and that the total was around $60. The items through further investigation added up to $1,110 rather than $60. All items were returned to the Prince Frederick Walmart per the Dunkirk Walmart and photographed for evidence.”
The loss prevention manager told Parks the items in Oburke’s shopping cart added up to $2,269.
After being read his Miranda rights, Oburke “admitted to everything,” Parks stated in court documents. “After a search of his vehicle, two additional pages of false bar codes were found in his center console. The items were photographed and collected for evidence.”
Parks added that closed-circuit television footage of the alleged theft was captured and is evidence. According to a court docket summary, Oburke was released on his own recognizance later that day.
A hearing on the charges is scheduled for Jan. 15 in district court.