Local Politician, Among Others, Claim Missed Items at Self-Checkout Led to Their False Arrests
Last updated 11/4/2023 at 6:27pm
BROOKSVILLE – Walmart loses approximately $3 billion annually to retail theft, which equates to about 1% of its $300 billion in total revenue. Due to inflation and higher cost of living, shoplifting is on the rise. As a result, Walmart and other retailers have begun cracking down and pursuing criminal charges against a higher number of suspects. But what if you're innocent?
Since Walmart implemented self-checkout systems in their stores, shoppers have complained of being harassed and even arrested for unintentionally bagging items that were not scanned. Thieves often try to take advantage of the system by scanning fake bar codes, switching bar codes, or just not scanning items at all. These defendants usually have a history of theft charges and convictions.
Former Board of County Commission Candidate and current School Board Candidate Anthony Arenz tells R News he was recently arrested, after Walmart accused him of not scanning items in self-checkout. Arenz, who has no criminal record, says he was contacted by Hernando County Sheriff's Deputies on Sunday and asked to respond to the Walmart on Cortez Blvd. When Arenz arrived on scene, deputies placed him into custody, charging him with Felony Organized Fraud. Arenz says deputies told him he failed to scan a hygiene item, a child's toy, and some canned vegetables on two separate occasions, and at two different Walmart locations. Arenz claims the missed items were inadvertent and that he was distracted by his children who were standing at the register with him. Arenz questions why he would steal a few random, small-dollar items, when he spent over $300 during each alleged incident. Arenz says the deputy had no choice but arrest Arenz, because surveillance video shows him bagging the missed items. Arenz says the deputy stated, "You did look distracted by your children when you missed the items." Arenz was released on a $2,000 bond and immediately contacted R News to explain the dilemma.
R News reached out to Jennifer Seaman of Good Shepherd Bail Bonds, who said, "He [Anthony Arenz] was my third person with the exact same charge in two days. Two of them weren't even at the store when they were arrested." Seaman explains, "They don't have cashiers, but they expect everybody to be trained to do the job perfectly. I don't even shop there, because I've had far too many clients come to me with an arrest like that." Seaman believes if this continues, Walmart will have a class action lawsuit filed by those falsely accused of theft.
Attorney Kerry Jernigan posted a TikTok video that went viral, telling shoppers to skip self-checkout lanes to avoid being falsely accused of theft. In the video, Jernigan refers to these incidents as "theft by mistake," and says Walmart asset protection employees are not taking the time to determine which suspects intentionally took the item or if it was inadvertent. Jernigan says stores are even filing claims months after the incidents occur, which is what Arenz says happened to him. Arenz says the investigation into his two incidents began as far back as March of this year.
Arenz hopes the charges will be dismissed, but if they aren't he'll be forced to hire an attorney to defend something he says was not a theft at all.
Arenz did not want to sound conspiratorial, but he believes there may be a connection to the arrest and his campaign for Hernando County School Board. Arenz says local corrupt political figures tried to oust him from the 2022 Board of County Commission race, when Supervisor of Elections Office "falsely" advised that they had not received his $5,000 qualifying fee. Arenz was given 24-hours to gather the funds and make the payment again, to avoid being disqualified. Despite losing the race, Arenz was able to secure an impressive 30% of the vote, which is difficult for a first-time candidate with no political experience.
Walmart has not responded to our requests for comment.