Less than two weeks after a woman stole three iPads from Sherman’s Walmart store, Sherman police detectives have a suspect, Jessica Faith Hoffman, under arrest, and there are numerous other agencies that might also be filing charges against her, reported Sherman police Sgt. Bruce Dawsey.
Jail records show that Hood County, Texas, has already added a warrant against Hoffman, age 37, from Arlington, Texas. Both police agencies have filed charges against her for theft between $1,500-$20,000. Bail was set on the Sherman PD warrant at $100,000 bail. As of late Wednesday, no bail had been set on the charge filed by Hood County.
It was April 26 when the Sherman Walmart store videoed the suspect inside and outside the store, showing her driving off in a red Chevrolet HHR. She had left with three iPads, valued at $729 each, for a total retail loss to the store of $2,187. As soon as the store’s loss-prevention officers reported it to police, Detective Rob Ballew began his investigation.
Soon, Ballew determined that the same suspect had been filmed at nearly 30 Walmarts across northeast Texas and southern Oklahoma, plus several Target retail stores. After working with detectives with those other agencies, he collected copies of many surveillance videos. In watching all those, he determined a pattern to the theft.
He said the woman in the surveillance videos would go into the stores, select a shopping cart and fill it with groceries. Then, she would go to the electronics departments and ask to purchase, usually, three iPads. The store clerks would carry those to the front cashiers for her. Following store procedure, the cashiers would ring up the iPads first, as the suspect unloaded the groceries onto the conveyor belt, and then the cashiers would put them in the usual plastic carry-out bags.
Surveillance video showed the suspect putting the bagged iPads into her cart. As she continued to load groceries onto the belt, she would slip each of the iPads into a dark tote bag, sometimes with Texas Rangers markings and other times bearing the Dallas Cowboys logo. Then, the suspect would say something about needing to get some more money from her car, and with the tote bag in tow, leave the store.
She was filmed leaving in a red Chevrolet HHR with a paper license tag, indicating it was a newly-purchased vehicle. Even with all that information, police did not know who the suspect was.
It was Thursday that the Sherman P.D. notified the media and provided it with copies of the various surveillance videos. After releasing the images to the public, Dawsey said, they received multiple telephone calls identifying Hoffman as the suspect.
According to court documents later used to obtain arrests and search warrants, police received at least 12 telephone calls identifying Hoffman, some providing information on her place of residence, which was a home leased by her aunt. At least one of those callers also said she drove a red Chevrolet HHR. The caller told police, according to the documents, that he had paid Hoffman $275 for an iPad, and he knew of another person who had also given her that amount to purchase one.
The investigation also included assistance from Walmart corporate loss-prevention investigators.
Ballew obtained arrest and search warrants specifying the apartment of Hoffman’s aunt in Arlington and for her red Chevrolet HHR. Judicial District Judge Jim Fallon signed that warrant Tuesday afternoon, and Ballew, with three other Sherman officers, headed to Arlington. There, the Walmart investigators had been and continued to keep a watch on the suspect and kept Sherman police aware of her whereabouts.
Arlington police and an investigator with another county’s Sheriff’s Office also helped. They encircled the apartment building, with several officers stationed behind the apartment on Sunnybrook Circle.
Ballew led the team of six officers up the stairs, and knocked on the door at least four times, announcing that it was police outside with a search warrant. There was no response from inside, and so one of the officers began to force the front door open, kicking it, when someone opened it to them. Dawsey said Hoffman attempted to go out the back, but when she looked down she saw the officers waiting there for her, too.
A video of the events, which Sherman police also provided, shows an officer taking the suspect into custody. They took her onto the balcony while the search was conducted.
The documents returned to Fallon’s office listed items found and seized as a gray hooded sweatshirt, in a bag; two computer notebooks; and an iPad in one of the bedrooms. Dawsey said they obtained an additional search warrant for the suspect’s home, also in Arlington.
Dawsey said only about the suspect that she is currently unemployed, is married, and has four children. Overall, she is believed to have stolen more than 100 iPads, for an estimated $50,000 loss across the area. It will be up to the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office, Dawsey said, to determine with other DAs about the possibility of all the agencies filing a joint charge against the suspect.
Ballew returned to Arlington Wednesday to continue the investigation, Dawsey said.
“This is a significant arrest for Sherman and the other agencies who assisted us,” Dawsey said. He credited the news media and the public for providing police with the identification of the woman in the surveillance videos.