Bar code thief pleads guilty

District Courthouse in Prince Frederick

A Charles County man who police investigators charged with theft scheme after they said he was caught switching bar code stickers on store merchandise at Walmart pleaded guilty Wednesday in district court to a modified charge.

The defendant, Paul Aaron Oburke, 41, of Waldorf, was arrested by sheriff’s deputies Dec. 10 after a loss prevention manager at the Prince Frederick Walmart reported seeing a male taking bar code stickers out of his pocket and placing them on items.

Deputy Kamrhen Parks stated in court documents that the loss prevention manager said as the male shopper was checking out, he “observed a large quantity of items that added up to a very low amount.”

Parks said the store manager noticed the merchandise had false bar codes on them and “took the shopping cart from the suspect” who then “left the store and got into a blue Honda passenger car.”

Police stopped the vehicle in the store parking lot. A search of Oburke’s vehicle yielded $1,110 worth of merchandise Oburke admitted to purchasing at the Dunkirk Walmart using the bogus bar codes.

The loss prevention manager told Parks the items in Oburke’s shopping cart added up to $2,269.

The deputy noted in court documents that after he was read his Miranda rights, Oburke “admitted to everything.” The deputy also stated that the alleged theft was captured on the store’s closed-circuit television camera.

Oburke was charged with theft scheme $1,500 to $25,000 and theft $1,500 to under $25,000, then released on his own recognizance.

Prior to Wednesday’s hearing, the Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office modified the first count to theft $100 to under $1,500. Oburke pleaded guilty to the modified charge and the second charge was not prosecuted.

Oburke’s attorney, Robert R. Castro, told the court had no prior criminal record and was active military, serving in the Navy and doing aircraft maintenance.

“He made a poor choice to go to Walmart,” said Castro. “He wants to remain in the Navy.”

Judge Michelle Saunders gave Oburke and 60-day sentence, which was suspended in its entirety. In receiving probation before judgment, Oburke will be on one year of unsupervised probation.

“I want to say I’m sorry for this,” said Oburke. “I apologize to the Navy and Maryland. I’m embarrassed. I’m a good person. I obviously wasn’t thinking about my career when I did this.”

“It’s an unusual case,” Saunders admitted. “It doesn’t make any sense. You’ve got a lot to lose. Sometimes people make poor decisions.”

After imposing the sentence, Saunders advised Oburke, “don’t go back into Walmart in Calvert County. Good luck.”

Twitter: @CalRecMARTY