Safeway Accuses Portland Couple of Shoplifting $400,000 in Groceries Every Year for 12 Years

If Safeway is right, then two things are true: First, Richard Lavern Remington and Angela Rose Evans are the most prolific grocery-store shoplifters that ever lived; and second, Safeway's "loss prevention" department is absolutely horrible at preventing losses.

The store's security team in the Portland area completed a massive investigation that included hours of surveillance video, complex Excel spreadsheets, and even a planted tracking device on the suspects' car. They say that Remington and Evans stole about $400,000 worth of merchandise from Safeway stores every year for "several years," for a total of $5,000,000 in stolen merchandise.

Simple math means that the couple would have had to walk out with about $1,095 worth of groceries every day for more than 12 years in order to come up with $5,000,000 worth of jacked goods.

According to a probable-cause affidavit provided to Seattle Weekly by Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Gary Meabe, the couple's favorite items to steal were allegedly "shampoos, razors, Rogaine, conditioners, white strips, batteries, DVDs and CDs."

Now, we're not saying that walking out of a grocery store with $1,100 dollars worth of shampoo, Rogaine, and batteries is impossible for someone with, say, a large Santa Claus-esque sack or a billowing trench coat with 300 pockets. But for someone without those things, or someone who was planning on making such a massive grocery heist every single day, it's difficult to imagine how such a feat is accomplished.

Still, the charges are enough to keep the two locked up while they await trial.

One of the main tools that the security team used in compiling the case was a tracking device that they put on the suspects' van. While the two were in a Safeway on one occasion, the guards snuck out to their car and attached the device so that each time they came back, the security team would know and would be watching them like a hawk and putting notes into Excel spreadsheets (as opposed to, perhaps, stopping them from stealing).

The homing beacon also allowed them to watch where Remington and Evans went after their shopping trips, which, they say, was usually straight to a pawn store to sell the goods.

And while some might be wondering if a private security guard can put a tracking device on someone's car without a warrant, it turns out that yes, indeed they can.

In fact, Meabe says that one of the main differences between private security guards and sworn police officers is that private security guards don't need no stinkin' warrants if they want to track where people go, even if that evidence is to be used in court.

He also says that if a team of security guards can put together a compelling case, the county will prosecute it--whether any real live cops did any work on it or not.

"The only people that need warrants are police," says Meabe. "As a general principle, in this day and age it's an unfortunate fact, due to limited government resources, that private companies have to do some of their own investigative work. If it's enough to use in court, then we'll use it."

There's little doubt that Remington and Evans are habitual shoplifters--Safeway says in the charging documents that it has video footage of them stealing on several occasions that total a few thousand dollars' worth of goods, and there's no reason to doubt them (though it'd be nice if they returned our several calls and e-mails).

But the $5,000,000 figure that they're using to charge the two seems either so outlandishly exaggerated that the entire security team's investigation becomes questionable, or, if true, suggests such sheer ineptitude on the part of the guards that the same questions should be raised.

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