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Target-Elijah Sledge

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Have you ever seen a coupon that allowed you to get Apple products for next to nothing? Probably not. And neither had employees at a Target in Springfield, Virginia last November, when they called the police on four men who were using an assortment of questionable coupons.

Now, one of those men has been convicted for his role in the scam, and police are on the lookout for one of his co-defendants who never showed up in court.

22-year-old Elijah Sledge entered a plea of no contest this week. He and his cohorts were each charged with a felony count of larceny by false pretense, but Sledge was convicted of a lesser misdemeanor charge of petit larceny. He was given a 30-day suspended sentence, and ordered to pay $537 in court costs.

A bench warrant was issued for his co-defendant, 19-year-old Roy Warlick, who missed the preliminary hearing. The case against the two others, 25-year-old Rodney Daily and 27-year-old Martell Wheat, was continued until May.

The four men are all from the Chicago area. So what brought them to a Target store in suburban Washington?

Police, and Target, believe the men were driving from store to store to pull off their scheme. Investigators say they would use fraudulent coupons to obtain merchandise, “particularly Apple products”, and then return them for cash.

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Retailers’ policies differ, when it comes to returning items purchased with coupons. Some stores deduct the value of the coupons you used, and refund you only the amount you actually paid out of pocket. But other stores – Target among them – refund the full purchase price.

So whatever money the four Chicago men allegedly paid up front for their products after their counterfeit coupons were accepted, was merely an investment. They’d get that money back, and then some, by returning their deeply-discounted purchases for a full-priced refund.

Each time the foursome allegedly pulled off their scam, Target caught on too late, after the men were already gone. So Target had a nationwide lookout for them, hoping to catch them before they struck again.

And an alert cashier at the Springfield Mall Target put a stop to the whole thing. Sensing something suspicious about their coupons, the cashier alerted management, who called police while the men were still in the store, to report “a possible fraudulent coupon scheme in progress.”

Police arrested the men, and searched their minivan, which contained “a significant amount of merchandise and cash.” Investigators wouldn’t disclose exactly how much money was in the vehicle, or how many stores the men may have hit, but police seized all of the cash and merchandise, and took the minivan, too.

Sledge’s attorney declined to comment on the case, why his client entered a plea when none of the others did, or whether the relative leniency of the sentence indicated that Sledge was not the group’s ringleader.

We’ll find out, as the other defendants’ cases progress. Assuming they all show up for court next time.

Image sources: Fairfax County Police Department / JeepersMedia

One Comment

  1. Idiots like this give us honest couponers a bad name. They got off easy. Basically a slap on the wrist. Crazy!

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