Oh, Walmart workers, when will you learn that coupon crime never pays? Well, actually, it appears to pay very well – at least until you’re caught.
That’s what Elgin, Texas resident Cindy Hufford has become the latest to find out. The 42-year-old former employee of a Walmart store in North Austin has been formally charged with stealing more than $70,000 from her employer over a 20-month period. She allegedly did so by slipping extra coupons into her till and pocketing the equivalent amount in cash. Over and over again.
Police began investigating the case back in January 2012, when the store’s asset protection manager reported that he caught Hufford stealing from the store’s cash room. Acting on earlier suspicions, the manager had set up a video camera in the back room to watch Hufford, who was responsible for counting the cash, checks, credit card transactions and coupons from each register in the store. On the day he called police, the manager said he “observed Hufford steal a $100 bill from the till and place it inside her pocket.” When confronted, the manager reported, “she confessed to taking the $100 bill and also turned over… another $2,500 in cash that she had in her possession.”
According to her arrest warrant, Hufford gave a written confession to Walmart, in which she admitted adding extra coupons into several cash registers, swapping them out for cash, and taking the money. In the confession, she wrote that she “doesn’t honestly know how long” the scheme had been going on, or how much she was keeping, though she estimated that she took about $300 a day. Store management ultimately concluded the scam had been going on since at least June 2010, and that Hufford netted a grand total of $72,620.
The store became suspicious after an internal audit indicated that “there was a very large discrepancy between the amount in coupons that the store was actually taking in, compared with the amount in coupons that Cindy Hufford was entering into the computer for her daily counts.” In January 2012 alone, during the 15 days that month that Hufford worked, management reported the store’s coupon count was inflated by $3,788.
The case is much like one that occurred during roughly the same time period in Pennsylvania. From August 2010 to May 2012, Walmart cashier Eileen Zimmerman stole more than a quarter million dollars in similar circumstances – she too was in charge of counting the store’s cash at the end of the day, and she also brought hundreds of dollars worth of coupons from home to exchange for cash. Zimmerman ended up pleading guilty to a charge of felony theft and was sentenced this past June to six to twelve months in jail. Plus, she has to pay back the money.
Police in Austin, Texas say Hufford was not quite as cooperative, despite her written confession to Walmart, which is why it took them so long to investigate and file formal charges just this week. She’s been charged with felony theft and ordered held on $15,000 bond.
And no, she can’t make bail by using coupons.
Image sources: Walmart / Austin Police Department
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