Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

June 18, 2012

Game over: Alleged videogame thieves arrested

Brent Brown
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — An investigation by the Greensburg Police Department into multiple instances of theft at area Walmart retailers has resulted in the arrest of three individuals.

According to charging information filed in Decatur Circuit Court Thursday, Elizabeth G. Haler, 21, Jonathan Owens, 32, and Devon Sprong, 22, all of Shelbyville, have each been charged with theft, a Class D Felony. Owens and Sprong each face three counts in the case.

All three were arrested Thursday by members of the Decatur County Sheriff's Department as well as the Greensburg Police Department.

According to a police report from GPD Sgt. Brendan Bridges, the incidents leading to the arrests began in April when asset protection associates from Greensburg's Walmart SuperCenter notified police of a theft they had recently discovered.

The theft, the employees believed, had occurred earlier and involved the loss of 79 videogames, each of which retails at a cost of $60, according to the report.

Sprong, who is described in the report as a former employee of Shelbyville's Walmart, is alleged to have taken a device from the store that opens the plastic anti-theft cases which are used to house the games until a purchase is made.

According to the report, Greensburg's Walmart has surveillance video of all three suspects visiting the store March 25 and April 8.

Store asset protection associates told police they have no way of knowing what individual titles are missing, only that the games are made for play on the popular Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles.

Employees assert Sprong, Haler and Owens took games from the electronics department to the store's lawn and garden center where they opened the cases, then stuffed the games in purses while some kept a look-out.

The report also notes Walmart associates believe Sprong purchased storage containers, then placed the videogames within them in order to carry them out of the store undetected.

Sprong's alleged carrying of the magnetic "key" that opens game cases has caused the store's security system to sound when he exits the store.

Associates also told police they believe the suspects conducted a similar theft at New Castle's Walmart April 26. Asset protection employees also stated they believe Haler, Owens and Sprong have done the same thing at Walmart stores in Rushville and Shelbyville.

A supplemental report from GPD Detective Robert Zapfe dated May 23 sheds a great deal more light on the case.

Det. Zapfe followed up on Sgt. Bridges' initial report and found that a Greensburg store inventory found several empty plastic game cases prompting an investigation by Walmart Asset Protection.

In addition to previously mentioned locations, stores in Connersville and Columbus are also alleged to be victims of theft by the suspects.

A detective from the Shelbyville Police Department met Det. Zapfe at Shelbyville's Walmart, and they conducted an interview with Haler, which was audio recorded.

Haler is said to have voluntarily given information to authorities about the case, including names of individuals involved and stores law enforcement officials had not been aware may be involved in the case prior to the interview.

Haler was questioned following a report that Shelbyville' s Walmart had received a written letter from an associate that noted Haler had evidence of ongoing merchandise theft.

Haler is also alleged to have divulged the name of the store to which the games had been sold. A written summary of a conversation between two Connersville Walmart associates submitted to an asset protection employee states GameStop is believed to be one of the retailers that may have unknowingly purchased the stolen videogames.

Additionally, the report implicates Robert Bloom, who had been arrested in Rushville on unrelated charges, as the suspects' driver.

During an interview with police, Bloom is alleged to have confessed to his part in the thefts, in addition to naming the suspects.

Bloom also told police there were at least three instances in which Bloom, Sprong and Owens had gone to Greensburg's Walmart without the other suspects.

Det. Zapfe's report states $1,397.42 worth of merchandise was stolen from Greensburg's Walmart March 25. An additional $1,266.58 is alleged to have been taken April 8. Another attempt May 1 resulted in the recovery of $600 worth of merchandise.

A total of $8,333.68 have been found to be stolen from Greensburg alone thus far. "This dollar amount could be substantially off until the inventory is conducted for that store," said Det. Zapfe in his report.

Following the forthcoming inventory, additional suspects may be introduced and charged.

Haler is free on a $505 cash bond, which she posted earlier this week. Her court appearance has been set for noon Wednesday, June 27. Sprong and Owens remain at the Decatur County Jail, each having been issued a $755 cash bond.

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056