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Employees charged in BrandsMart theft case

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Local authorities are investigating a series of thefts at a major appliance store, in a case that has resulted in the arrests of six employees of the establishment thus far.

The Henry County Police Department has charged the following individuals with 150 counts of felony theft by taking, and 50 counts of criminal conspiracy to commit a felony: Maurice Foster, 22, of Atlanta; Jonathan Charles Chambers, 22, of Decatur; Demario Deandre Norris, 20, of McDonough; Justin Ray Sprueil, 20, of Jonesboro; and Dantelle Antione Smith, 24, of Stockbridge.

Nineteen-year-old Roderick Bernard Adams, of Morrow, is also charged in the case, with one count each of theft and conspiracy.

The case stems from items reported missing last month from the BrandsMart USA location at 4000 Mt. Zion Pkwy., in Stockbridge. According to Henry Police Capt. Jason Bolton, the store's protection manager for the Atlanta region contacted the agency May 11 regarding the thefts.

"Detectives began an investigation into the thefts, and discovered that 188 televisions were missing from the store," said Bolton. "The value of the stolen televisions was just under $100,000."

The investigation, added the captain, revealed "numerous" BrandsMart employees had concocted a scheme to steal the televisions, with help from several other individuals.

"This all began on Black Friday, Nov. 26, 2008," said Bolton. "Someone would come in and buy something small - for instance, a microwave. They would take the receipt for the item they purchased, and go to the 'pick up' area where they would receive not only the item they purchased, but also a television, or two."

Bolton described the stolen merchandise as flat-screen televisions, ranging in size from 32 inches to 50 inches.

Arrests in the case began with Foster, on May 20. Chambers, Norris, Sprueil and Smith were apprehended May 22, and Adams was arrested May 25. Additional charges in the case include possession of ecstasy for Foster, and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana for Sprueil.

Bolton said, so far, five of the stolen televisions and two computer monitors have been recovered by police. More arrests are expected in the case, he said.

Foster and Sprueil were released from custody May 22 and 25, respectively, on $10,000 bond each. Adams was released May 26, and Smith on May 29, on $20,000 bond each.

Cases for all four men were bound over to Superior Court.

Chambers and Norris were released on May 25 and 28, on $20,000 bond each. Their cases were reset for July 10, to allow them an opportunity to hire attorneys.

Paul Garcia, vice president of loss prevention for BrandsMart's corporate office in Florida, declined to comment on the case, due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

The suspects have made their first appearances in Henry County Magistrate Court. Foster, Adams, Sprueil and Smith are each being represented by the Public Defender's Office. Public Defender Gary Bowman could not be reached for comment on the case Friday.