OKEECHOBEE — When police detectives arrested a local man and woman it apparently put a halt to recent thefts from a local store.
Arrest reports indicate Fred Henry Vangorder, 47, and Carole L. Hilton, 58, stole over $1,000 worth of items from the Okeechobee Walmart store. In another case, the couple reportedly tried to steal over $1,000 of products but their heist was thwarted by the store manager.
Vangorder, Northwest Fifth St., was arrested in connection with both cases. He was charged with two felony counts of grand theft, two felony counts of retail theft and one misdemeanor count of resisting a merchant.
He is being held in the Okeechobee County Jail on a total bond of $45,000.
Hilton, of the same Okeechobee address, was charged with one felony count of grand theft. She was booked into the county jail, but then released on her own recognizance after her first-appearance hearing Friday morning, Feb. 12.
A report by Detective Jack Boon, of the Okeechobee City Police Department (OCPD), detailed how Vangorder tried to steal a number of items from the store on Jan. 2.
According to that detective’s report Vangorder was seen walking out of the store with a shopping cart containing two television sets, a pet bed, a tent and two frozen pizzas. The value of the items totaled $1,047.80.
The detective’s report details how the store manager watched as Vangorder pushed the shopping cart past the store’s cash registers “… without making any attempt to pay for the items in the cart.”
The manager followed the man outside and asked Vangorder for his sales receipt, stated the report.
At that point, the man started running to a 2001 black Ford pickup truck that was being driven by a woman.
Vangorder got into the truck and the couple sped away, continued Detective Boon.
Through the course of his investigation Detective Boon learned the truck did not belong to Vangorder or Hilton.
However, Hilton reportedly had the owner’s permission to use the truck.
Over a month later, OCPD Detective James Pickering arrested the couple for their involvement in the Jan. 1 theft of a number of items from Walmart.
Detective Pickering stated the couple entered the store at 1:11 a.m. Once inside they put three televisions and an entertainment system into a shopping cart and walked out of the store without paying for any of the items, added the detective’s report.
Those items, he added, had a total value of $1,722.
“The suspects placed the items into a dark-colored Ford truck and left the area,” stated Detective Pickering. “Video surveillance was obtained of the event and compared to several similar recent instances of a white male and a white female placing items into a cart and passing all points of sale, then placing the items into a dark-in-color Ford truck.
” Before the couple left the Walmart parking lot, an employee was able to get the license tag number on the truck. Then, during his probe, Detective Boon found the vehicle at the home the couple shared on S.W. Fifth Ave.
When the detectives compared photos of Vangorder and Hilton to the man and woman who were seen in store surveillance video they appeared to match, Detective Pickering stated.
The reports do not indicate if the items reportedly stolen from the store were recovered.
Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News