Store reports major theft

Wal-Mart employee accused of stealing more than $24,000

Money-order fraud alleged

Credit card debt was motivation, investigators say

Eldersburg

March 07, 2001|By Jamie Manfuso | Jamie Manfuso,SUN STAFF

Police have charged an Owings Mills woman with stealing more than $24,000 in money orders from the Eldersburg Wal-Mart store where she worked to pay off what she told police was $60,000 in credit card debt.

Gwendolyn Seville Willis, 35, of Chase Mill Circle is accused of writing more than 30 money orders to herself since September while working as a customer service representative, police said.

"She had a ton of credit cards," said Sheriff's Deputy Ed Engel of the Criminal Investigation Division at the Westminster state police barracks. "She told me that she got into a bind with things, and she decided to spend money."

Willis was charged Monday with theft over $500 and with scheme to commit theft over $500, according to a police report. The investigation continues, Engel said yesterday.

She is accused of stealing 29 money orders totaling $16,400 between Sept. 20 and Oct. 6, and of stealing more than $7,700 in money orders Thursday and Friday, they said.

A Wal-Mart employee for five years - the past seven months at the Eldersburg location - Willis is accused of writing money orders to herself during work and cashing them in Maryland and Virginia, police said.

Tom Williams, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., said $24,000 would be one of the larger employee thefts that Wal-Mart stores have sustained.

A Wal-Mart loss prevention team is investigating whether other money orders are missing, Engel said.

Police responded to the store in the 1300 block of Liberty Road after Wal-Mart loss prevention officer Marcus Baker contacted them. The unit had been investigating Willis for about a month, Engel said.

Willis was released on her own recognizance Monday evening.

Steve Rhode, president of Myvesta.org, a nonprofit organization that offers help to people in financial trouble, said people can amass large debt because they are embarrassed to acknowledge their financial problems.

"I think businesses would be surprised to find out how much money their employees are stealing because they're ashamed of their debt," he said.

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