A Thief River Falls woman has been charged in Pennington County District Court after she allegedly stole about $1,330 worth of merchandise over the course of seven transactions in 2020.
Valencia Marie Cooper, 45, has been charged with felony theft.
The complaint was signed Tuesday, June 1. After being confronted by police, Cooper allegedly admitted to stealing items from Walmart. She said the items were usually food products or essential items. She told the police the items were for others.
Cooper, who realized it was wrong, said it was out of character for her to steal. She told police she didn’t realize how hard it would be to provide for her family after moving here from Chicago.
The charges stemmed from an Oct. 8 report of a theft at Walmart, according to the complaint. A loss prevention associate reported that an unknown female, later identified as Cooper, had scanned a different UPC barcode on several items at the self-checkout. Cooper also allegedly didn’t scan some items and instead placed them into bags.
A Walmart associate asked to see her receipt; however, Cooper walked toward customer service and eventually left the store with $155.72 worth of unpaid merchandise. She left in a red Ford Explorer with damage on the front and rear of the vehicle. The vehicle also had no front license plate.
The loss prevention associate reported six other pending theft cases that occurred in July and August 2020. The stolen items totaled $1,330.34.
On Nov. 17, a police officer stopped a vehicle matching a description of the suspect vehicle involved in thefts at Walmart a day earlier and over the course of the last couple of months.
The driver, another woman, said she hadn’t been to Walmart a day earlier and had borrowed the vehicle from a friend. The woman didn’t resemble the suspect. However, when shown a photo of the suspect, the woman identified her as the friend from whom she had borrowed the vehicle and provided the woman’s name to the police.
On Dec. 7, at about 1 p.m., police received a report that the suspect was again at Walmart. Police stopped Cooper as she left Walmart. Cooper allegedly told police that she had already spoken with another police officer regarding some theft cases and that court proceedings were occurring. She denied stealing from Walmart, saying it was a misunderstanding.
An officer called his colleague, who denied speaking with Cooper. When asked why the motorist had lied to the officer about Cooper’s identity in November, Cooper allegedly said the woman was trying to cover for her and provided police with a fake name.
Cooper soon agreed to speak with Walmart asset protection employees who had been handling the theft cases. At first, she denied stealing merchandise. However, after an associate spoke about picture and video evidence, Cooper began providing information.
Cooper said she had shopped at Walmart about three to four times a week for the last three months. She allegedly admitted scanning items at a lower value in the self-check-out each time she shopped there.
Cooper said it would be fair to say this had occurred more often than her purchasing the items at their full price.
Cooper believed she had stolen $500 to $700, not $1,330, worth of merchandise. However, she never kept track of the amount.