Trio allegedly used disguises, bolt cutter, deception

An Ohio man with a lengthy record of theft is charged with stealing more than $37,000 in iPhones and iPads from the Burlington Walmart as part of a sophisticated shoplifting operation that employed disguises, a bolt cutter and deception.

Racine County prosecutors allege Maurice L. Whyte, 26, of Columbus, Ohio, was the primary suspect of a three-person ring that allegedly targeted the Burlington Walmart twice in the early morning hours of Dec. 23, 2019.

He is charged in Racine County Circuit Court with felony retail theft of items totaling more than $10,000.

Whyte made his initial court appearance March 3 and was bound over for trial after the court set cash bond at $3,500.

Maurice Whyte

According to an investigator with the Burlington Police Department who viewed video surveillance of the theft, three suspects who appeared to be females entered the store shortly after 4 a.m. and walked to the electronics department. Two of the suspects acted as lookouts and distractions for employees in the area, according to the complaint, while the third suspect went behind the counter and used a bolt cutter to open a locked cabinet.

That suspect is seen going in and out of the open cabinet several times. The suspects are then seen stashing the iPhones and iPads in a toaster oven box obtained elsewhere in the store, according to the complaint.

The three ultimately took the toaster oven box filled with the electronics to the self-checkout, scanned it and paid for the toaster oven before leaving the store and driving away in a black Chevrolet Tahoe, the complaint contends.

Surveillance video from less than two hours earlier that same day shows what appears to be three different suspects – two females and a likely male, according to the complaint – entering the area behind the electronics counter and attempting to pry open the cabinet.

An inventory conducted after both incidents documented a total loss of 33 iPhones and nine iPads with a value of $37,459, according to the complaint.

The investigator learned of similar Walmart thefts, including: in Kenosha County (with a value of $23,827); LaPorte, Indiana, ($13,062 on Dec. 11); Highland, Illinois, ($3,000 on Dec. 12); Bloomington, Indiana, ($27,000 on Dec. 13); and Princeton, Indiana, ($15,785 on Dec. 19), according to the complaint.

The Burlington investigator learned that one of the female suspects in the local theft was actually Whyte dressed as a woman. The investigator matched surveillance images of Whyte to a photo on his Facebook page and also learned from Ohio Highway Patrol that Whyte owns a 2016 Chevy Tahoe matching the vehicle used in the Burlington theft, according to the complaint.

The complaint also details a list of at least nine theft-related convictions in two states on Whyte’s criminal record.

Whyte remained in the Racine County Jail as of Tuesday evening on a hold from the U.S. Marshall Service.

For additional Racine County Court news see the March 12 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.