Walmart employee pleads guilty to stealing $255,000 in coupon scheme

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There are coupon clippers and then there are extreme coupon-clippers. A Homer City woman, it seems, was in the latter group.

Eileen H. Zimmerman, 39, a former Walmart employee, pleaded guilty Monday to charges of stealing more than $255,000 from the chain's Burrell location near Blairsville in Indiana County, a caper that went undiscovered over a four-year period because police said she exchanged coupons she clipped at home for cash at the store.

The investigation into Ms. Zimmerman, who was arrested May 7, 2012, began after a coupon clearinghouse that reimburses Walmart notified the store about unusual spikes in the number of coupons being used at Walmart, said state Trooper Robert Worcester of the Indiana barracks.

"They more or less narrowed it down, every time when there was a huge spike in the amount of coupons, she was working," Trooper Worcester said.

Walmart surveillance video showed Ms. Zimmerman, who was responsible for balancing the day's sales with coupons, swapping her own coupons brought from home for cash from the store. The store's asset protection manager is quoted in the criminal complaint describing the scheme:

"So what she was doing was bringing in coupons from home. Say the store collected $500 worth of coupons the day she worked. She would bring in $500 worth of coupons, place them in the bin, change the coupon intake for that day to $1,000, and would pocket $500."

The surveillance video showed Ms. Zimmerman bringing coupons into a room in Walmart and placing them in a coupon bin, Trooper Worcester wrote.

"Then while she was counting the money she would fold a separate stack of money and place it aside," he wrote in the criminal complaint. "She would then stand up, usually stretch, grab a clipboard, place it over the money and then take the money with her left hand and place the money in her left front pant pocket."

The exchanges started with small amounts of coupons, but Trooper Worcester wrote in the complaint that he believed she was caught in the end likely because she was taking more money than the value of the coupons she was bringing in.

Trooper Worcester wrote that the total amount of money taken by Ms. Zimmerman between Dec. 12, 2008, and her arrest was $255,438.50.

A manager at the Walmart store said she could not answer any questions about the case or disclose how long Ms. Zimmerman had been an employee.

Ms. Zimmerman will be sentenced on June 28.

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The Associated Press contributed. Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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