MANKATO — A pair of shoplifters who caught the attention of Walmart security employees across the Midwest were jailed last week after hitting Mankato’s Super Center.
Security officers at the store, Mankato police officers and a state trooper worked together two catch the two women, who are suspected of stealing more than $100,000 in merchandise from Walmart stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“This is a fantastic catch for us,” Cmdr. Craig Frericks of the Mankato Department of Public Safety said Monday. “It was a great job by Walmart, the State Patrol, everyone involved.”
The two suspects allegedly grabbed an $80 suitcase from Walmart’s luggage department and filled it with more than 200 DVDs worth a total of nearly $5,000. One of the suspects created a distraction in the store’s Electronic’s Department while buying something so the other suspect could fill the suitcase.
When the two left the store together, the theft alarm was triggered. The suspect who had a cart with the suitcase kept going into the parking lot while the suspect who made the purchase created another distraction while pretending to be the cause of the alarm.
Surveillance video showed both of the suspects left in a 1997 Ford Crown Victoria after an employee checked the bag of the suspect who made the purchase. The incident was reported to Mankato police officers at about 1:15 a.m. Wednesday. They put out an alert and the car was stopped south of New Auburn in Sibley County on Highway 22 by a state trooper a short time later.
The stolen suitcase was found in the car, but the DVDs were not, according to criminal complaints filed last week charging 59-year-old Noe Baldiva-Corral and 26-year-old Smantha Velez-Diaz with felony theft.
It’s still not clear how many people are involved in what authorities suspect is a shoplifting network. Frericks said the thefts span about seven months.
“Our understanding is they were shipping it out as soon as they would take it,” Frericks said. “This is a pretty big case. They have a lot of video to go over.”
Both suspects also have felony warrants in Wyoming and North Dakota, the complaints said. They allegedly stole $7,000 in merchandise from the Walmart in Worthington, about $4,300 in merchandise from the Walmart in Albert Lea and about $1,200 from the Walmart in Owatonna before they were arrested for the Mankato thefts, the complaints said.