Woman works to clear record after being acquitted of stealing from Wegman’s self-checkout
HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - A Louisa County mother is working to clear her record after being charged and found not guilty of stealing from a grocery store self-checkout.
Amber Groome was once a long-time customer of the Short Pump Wegman’s and says she simply forgot to scan a few items in 2021. Groome says she did not realize until she was later served a warrant for larceny.
“I just came off the day before from working a 14-hour shift at the hospital in the COVID units. So tired, exhausting. When I got to the checkout, I took each bag, as I always do, to take everything out and put it back in the bag, put in the cart, do the next bag the same exact way,” said Groome. “I guess I must’ve forgot a bag, like a whole bag. It wasn’t like high-dollar stuff. Like there were vitamins and stuff in there. Yes. But then they were also like Pringles pretzels sticks are like $1 or $2. And they didn’t stop me at the door.”
Groome says days later, officers showed up saying there was a warrant for her arrest. She was charged with petty larceny for stealing less than $1,000.
“I would have let them look through my whole cart. And if they would have found that bag out to be like, Oh, my goodness, I’m so sorry, let me go back to the register and pay for my items. They didn’t have to do what they did at all,” she said.
The mom of two says she used to shop at the particular store often. Groome says she has a big family, so at times she would spend up to $500 at once.
“I’m only human, so. Yeah, I made a mistake. Honest mistake but I wish they would have come to me about it,” Groome explained. “Why they wouldn’t stop me at the door? If it was like multiple items that were paid in the bag and like some that weren’t paid for intentionally, I would understand that. But it was a whole bag and it was not intentional and it really hurt my feelings.”
Her case was heard by a judge twice and she was found not guilty, after appealing in Henrico Circuit Court..
In a statement to NBC12, Wegmans Corporate wrote:
“On March 2, 2022, Ms. Groome was found guilty of petit larceny but requested an appeal. On May 17, 2022 another judge heard the appeal in circuit court and ruled not guilty, stating that there was no proof of intent. We are disappointed by this ruling as we have video evidence of Ms. Groome leaving our store without paying for close to $250 in merchandise.”
Groome’s story is not unusual, in fact, it is one Arkansas criminal defense attorney Carrie Jernigan says is being seen more often.
“Do not use self check out for large grocery orders, you are just asking for trouble,” the attorney explained in a viral TikTok video. “[Stores] have lost all sympathy and they are just taking a tell it to a judge approach.”
Jernigan says there are three groups of people getting charged with shoplifting using self-checkout:
- People who intend to steal
- Theft by mistake
- The truly innocent.
Jernigan says with those who fall into the group of theft by mistake, she believes they “genuinely forgot to scan an item.” For those who fall in the category of truly innocent, Jernigan says some people are facing charges days, weeks, even months after the fact. She says asset protection may do inventory and come up short, so they watch hours of surveillance video to attempt to determine the last person who may have checked out with the item in question.
Watching the TikTok and knowing what Groome says happened to her. The On Your Side Investigators wanted to know how often people are served a warrant after the fact, instead of stopped in the moment for suspected theft.
The grocery store chain did not respond to a question about its theft policy in an email, but NBC12 obtained records for how many times Henrico police were called to the Short Pump store for possible larceny and shoplifting. In 2021, the year of Groome’s charge, police were called to the store 44 times for larceny and shoplifting. So far in 2022, Henrico police showed up more than a dozen times for larceny and shoplifting reports.
At the time of the charges, she was working in healthcare as well as at a restaurant. Groome says due to the time she needed to take off to fight her case, she lost one of her jobs.
“I’ve lost so much money. Can’t get it back. I paid an attorney, and lost that money. Now, I want my record expunged, so if I go get a normal job and they pull my record, they won’t see,” said Groome. “I’m going to fight this to the end because I would feel like I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t do this,” she said.
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