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A West Virginia woman who may have been one of Kmart’s most loyal customers – before it started closing hundreds of locations across the country – has been sentenced for taking advantage of her favorite, floundering retailer’s generosity, with tens of thousands of dollars worth of fake coupons.

39-year-old Tanya Thompson, who also goes by Tanya Whetzel, of Martinsburg, West Virginia has been sentenced in federal court to three years of probation, including six months of home detention, following her guilty plea on a charge of wire fraud last fall.

From June through December 2017, Thompson admitted to traveling the country, visiting dozens of Kmart stores in approximately 25 states to use fraudulent mobile coupons.

Thompson was a member of Kmart’s “Shop Your Way” rewards program, whose members “could receive special coupons on their mobile devices,” the criminal indictment explained. “Certain coupon bar codes, when scanned during checkout, prompted the cashiers to manually enter the coupon dollar amount as displayed on the coupon.”

So Thompson decided to create her own, with dollar amounts far in excess of what a legitimate Kmart coupon would actually offer.

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And it worked, so she did it again and again, visiting more and more Kmart locations further and further afield, in order to avoid being caught pulling the same scam at the same store twice.

Thompson typically purchased gift cards and prepaid credit cards, calculating her transactions so she owed little or nothing at the end. In total, prosecutors said she defrauded Kmart out of $94,977.50.

Times have changed since Thompson’s cross-country couponing spree. Most of the stores she visited aren’t even open anymore, a few years after Kmart’s parent company Sears filed for bankruptcy, and accelerated its pace of store closings that were already under way. At one time, Kmart had well over 2,000 stores in all 50 states. Today, it has just a few dozen in a handful of states.

So Kmart’s owners will likely welcome the cash that should be coming their way – because, in addition to her probation and home detention, Thompson has been ordered to pay back the $94,977.50 she obtained as a result of her scheme.

It could take a while, though. Thompson has been ordered to make an initial payment of just $100, followed by monthly payments equal to at least 10% of her gross earnings thereafter. That means she’ll have to make nearly a million dollars in earnings before she’ll have paid off the full amount. And at the rate Kmart is going, the retailer may not be around long enough to collect it all.

So Thompson may have been Kmart’s most loyal customer, shopping at more different locations than probably anyone. But that loyalty may have come at a steep price – for both her, and for Kmart itself.

Image source: JeepersMedia

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