Pasco man admits to card theft

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 8, 2014 

A Pasco man admitted Wednesday that he used stolen UPS gas credit cards to charge $1,618 in almost two weeks.

Matthew Donald Johnson also pleaded guilty in a separate case to loading a suitcase with $1,239 in merchandise at Sears and trying to leave the store without paying before he was stopped by an employee.

Johnson, 29, was sentenced in both cases in Benton County Superior Court to seven months in jail. He is allowed to do 105 days of the jail term on work crew if eligible, but must sign up by Tuesday.

Judge Vic VanderSchoor said Johnson could serve the identical sentences at the same time.

In total, Johnson admitted four felonies as part of a plea deal: second-degree theft; possession of methamphetamine; and two counts of second-degree possessing stolen property.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree theft, a gross misdemeanor.

In the first case, Kennewick police were called to Sears in the Columbia Center mall on Sept. 11 for reports of a possible organized shoplifting in progress.

A loss prevention officer told dispatch that a man and woman were walking around the store selecting merchandise and placing the items in a shopping cart, while talking via cell to another man in the parking lot, court documents said.

Responding officers found the man in the parking lot. Around the same time, the woman left the store.

However, Johnson remained inside with the merchandise and tried to hide it in a bag before walking toward the exit with the full suitcase and a tool kit, documents said. When a store employee confronted him about the unpaid items, Johnson dropped the bag and kit and left.

Police were waiting for him outside and arrested Johnson. He had a "very tiny quantity" of meth on him at the time, documents said.

Johnson reportedly said "that he did not do anything. That he had thought about taking some things, but had changed his mind."

In a later interview with officers, he admitted that he intended to take the goods while in the store but changed his mind.

The second case involves gas credit cards that belonged to UPS, or United Parcel Service of America.

Johnson got his hands on the cards and purchased gasoline at several different Tri-City locations between Nov. 11 and 24, court documents said. Surveillance cameras at some gas stations confirmed that he was the one using the cards without permission.

He must repay $1,618.22 to UPS.

Johnson also reportedly possessed a trailer from Nov. 13 to Dec. 2 that he knew was stolen and was valued at $3,842, documents said.

Johnson's criminal history includes two convictions out of Minnesota for possessing six grams or more of heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine and for burglary.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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