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OHIO Husband, wife charged in complex thievery scheme



Published: Sat, June 18, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The parents allegedly made their four children help steal things for them.

BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio (AP) -- A couple is charged with making their four children help them execute an elaborate shoplifting scheme at stores around the state, then selling the items on eBay, authorities said.

Deputies in the Logan County Sheriff's Office said Laura Morris took her three daughters and a son to shopping centers around the state to pull off thefts nearly every day for the past six months, while Todd Morris would stay home and sell the stolen goods on eBay.

Todd and Laura Morris, both 35, were arrested Thursday after investigators said they found $25,000 in stolen merchandise at their home. Detective Jon Stout of the sheriff's office said the mother denied the charges when authorities confronted her but the children -- ages 5, 13, 15 and 17 -- gave full statements.

"There was a sense of relief by all the children that this was over and they weren't going to be forced to steal anymore," Stout said.

The old switcheroo

Authorities said sometimes the mother would use the children as lookouts while she swiped items. Other times, they would buy items, stash the paid-for merchandise in the trunk of a car, then return to the store with empty bags and receipts, the sheriff's office said.

The mother then would make the children fill up the empty bags with duplicates of what had already been bought and walk out of the store with the goods, deputies said. If they were ever questioned, they could produce receipts that matched the items they were carrying, according to authorities.

After several repetitions of this process, the mother would typically return a set of the merchandise to get back the money she initially spent, detectives said.

The family visited stores such as Lowe's, Sears, Big Lots and Old Navy around the state, authorities said.

"These stores were huge and no one was paying attention to them," Stout said.

Meanwhile, the sheriff's office alleges that the father would stay home and sell the stolen goods on eBay. Online records show the couple executed more than 1,350 auctions on eBay, most in the last six months, earning a positive feedback rating of 99.8 percent from buyers.

However, not everyone gave rave reviews. In a feedback statement posted on eBay, one of the customers gave the couple a neutral rating, complaining: "Fast shipping but the jeans came with the security thing, got a stain on the jeans."

The couple replied, "If you would have contacted me before removing it, I would have sent you another."

The husband and wife were being held in the Logan County Jail on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft, child endangering and receiving stolen property.




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