A former Walmart manager is now facing felony charges after being caught on video surveillance allegedly stealing $135,988 from the Joliet, Illinois, store where she was employed.
Melissa Vanderwall of Romeoville turned herself in on Monday, March 6, to local authorities in Joliet, Illinois, located 45 miles southwest of Chicago.
The 47-year-old woman reportedly emptied cash into a shopping bag from cash recyclers that are used to restock store registers. She ended her shift early after allegedly taking the money, according to reports. Officers were called the same day when it was discovered, and issued an arrest warrant for Vanderwall two days later.
The alleged theft took place on Nov. 27, 2022, at the store located at 2424 West Jefferson St.
Police searched for Vanderwall, but she reportedly left the area the same night of the theft.
“Detectives were actively investigating this case, and it was believed she had left the area,” Joliet police spokesman Dwayne English told Patch.com.
Joliet police didn’t disclose if any of the money was recovered.
Patch.com reports that English replied in an email, “I cannot speak on the status of the money, as it is an integral part of this case. Doing so might interfere with the prosecutorial integrity of the case.”
Vanderwall was booked and charged with theft and burglary after turning herself into Joliet police on the arrest warrant. Bond for Vanderwall is set at $100,000.
Walmart CEO and president Doug McMillon told CNBC in December 2022 that theft at their stores has been higher “than what it has historically been,” according to Business Insider. The rising theft numbers, reportedly due to shoplifting, including through the self-checkout feature the company is increasingly turning to, could result in stores facing closure over financial losses.
“While we don’t discuss details related to illegal activity in our stores, we’re continually exploring effective ways to protect merchandise, keep prices low and provide a safe environment for the millions of customers we serve weekly,” a Walmart spokesperson told Insider in a statement.
Since the pandemic, stores like Target and Walmart have found ways to cut costs. They have hired fewer employees and added more self-checkout machines, which reportedly have enticed people to steal more.
Self-checkout hasn’t been the only source of theft at Walmart. In 2022, the trend of setting fires inside Walmart stores became a popular one, reportedly in some instances as a way to create diversions for theft. These fire theft diversion plots happened in Georgia, New York, Colorado and South Carolina.
On social media, many were vocal about the Walmart manager’s arrest, with comments such as, “And Walmart thinks a customer who has to cash themselves out and bag their own stuff is the problem. By the way, If working there makes you look like that at 47, get out.”
Another person commented, “Walmart employees are all on food stamps or some kind of govt assistance due to really low wages even though Walmart made hundreds of billions last year.”
An anonymous Walmart employee, who works at the store where the alleged theft took place, also spoke on the matter.
“Theft is horrible at my store,” the employee told Business Insider. “If corporate actually visited at the store level and spoke with actual employees that deal with the theft, they might see how to fix the problem.”
According to inmate information for the Will County Adult Detention Facility in Joliet, where Vanderwall was booked, she is still in custody and has a court date set for March 28.