Elaborate Merchandise Scam Results in Felony Arrest
A case that began when a Menards employee became suspicious of a customer’s returns could end with a Gillette man spending up to 10 years in prison.
The Gillette Police Department responded to Menards shortly before 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4, after the manager reported items that had been returned in a fraudulent manner. The manager reviewed the store’s surveillance footage after a cashier reported the suspicious returns.
The manager told police the footage showed that on the same day around 2:30 p.m., a male, later identified as 30-year-old Jesse Dennis, entered the store without any merchandise. The video showed Dennis walking around the store placing items in his cart.
Approximately 20 minutes after entering the store, Dennis took the cart and contents to the return counter. The returned items totaled $461.78 and included a toilet bowl, jeans, and flannel shirts. Dennis was issued a merchandise credit check, Menards’ form of in-store credit. Because the clerk was suspicious of the transaction, a hold was placed on the check.
From the return counter, Dennis went directly to the checkout counter where he attempted to buy a Gatorade and charging station with the check he had just received. Because of the hold on the check, the transaction was stopped and Dennis was delayed until officers arrived.
When he was initially contacted, Dennis was allegedly in possession of a second check for the amount of $592.20.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Dennis admitted to using the technique three or four times since November 2018. He would purchase large items, and then return to the store on a later date with only the receipts. Dennis would then pick up an identical item and use the receipt to “return” it for cash or store credit.
Court documents state Dennis was under financial strain after being laid off from work. He reportedly told officers he had already spent $400 to $500 worth of checks on other items and he still had more checks and receipts located in a vehicle parked at his residence.
Dennis was arrested and also consented to a search of his vehicle. As a result of the search, the affidavit states officers recovered several dozen suspicious receipts from Menards, Home Depot, and other businesses. Using those receipts, Menards was able to identify additional fraudulent transactions totaling more than $4,600.
Dennis is currently facing one felony charge of obtaining goods by false pretenses, which is punishable by 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.