Fred Meyer clerk steals thousands

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 20:00

A gas station clerk at the Eagle River Fred Meyer pocketed forgotten credit and debit cards, making off with nearly $7,000 before he was caught, authorities said.

Now the 23-year-old Eagle River man is in jail, accused of stealing $6,810.95 from customers who accidentally left behind their cards when they bought gas, Anchorage police said.

Christopher Hinton is also accused of stealing an unknown amount of cash, police said.

The store’s loss prevention department reported the theft on March 16.

Hinton is no longer employed as a gas station clerk, a Fred Meyer spokeswoman in Portland, Ore. said.

The store received calls from customers when they lost their cards, spokeswoman Melinda Merrill said. She couldn’t elaborate on how loss prevention zeroed in on Hinton.

Fred Meyer is “in the process of working with those cardholders and their banks,” Merrill said. The company doesn’t know exactly how the theft will be resolved because that process is ongoing, she said.

Hinton provided a signed statement to loss prevention that detailed his actions, according to a report by Anchorage police officer Brian Fuchs.

Here’s how Fuchs described the particulars:

Between January and mid-March, Hinton recovered three to five debit or credit cards from customers. He used the cards to buy Fred Meyer gift cards and then used the cards to buy various items in the store, including $1,500 in cashier’s checks. Hinton used the checks to pay off a collection agency, Fuchs wrote.

In addition, Hinton took money from customers paying cash for gas and substituted gift cards for payment.

Hinton signed a consent to search waiver and took officers back to his house to recover the purchased items, Fuchs said.

Police arrested Hinton on three counts of second-degree theft, three counts of access device theft and two counts of theft of lost or mislaid property.

He was jailed on $5,000 bail.

Merrill, the Fred Meyer spokeswoman, called the theft by an employee “very rare.”

Fred Meyer has a system in place for keeping customers safe, she said, but added, “You can’t anticipate everything that every mind is going to come up with.”

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