3 charged in $1K Ocala Walmart shoplifting scheme

Man walked out with cart full of items, teen told workers she lost child, police say

OCALA, Fla. - Ocala police have arrested a woman, who was involved in a shoplifting scheme at Walmart and lied to workers about losing her child in the store, along with two other men.

19-year-old Megan Grant and 20-year-olds Paul Valenti and Christopher Panco were charged in their involvement in stealing a $1,100 worth of merchandise from the Walmart on SW 19th Avenue Road.

According to police, customers standing in line at the Walmart on Thursday watched a man walk out of the store with a cart full of merchandise he had not paid for. Then Grant walked up to the cashier and said she couldn't find her small child, putting the store into a lock-down mode and having employees search for the child, according to the report.

She then said she had found her child and left the store, getting into the same vehicle with the man who had left the store. Witnesses told police they followed the car but got lost in traffic.

Two days later, a Walmart loss prevention officer saw the same vehicle and confronted Panco, who ran away from the officer, and Grant, who said they had put items in the cart to steal and that she had made the report to the employee of losing her little brother, however he is actually 17 and not a small child.

Several of the $1,100 worth of items stolen were recovered from the car and the rest were found at Grant's home, according to the report. Grant was arrested and taken to the Marion County Jail. Valenti was found at Grant's home and was arrested. Panco turned himself in on Saturday.

Among the items stolen were DVDs, video games, body wash, dog food, cat litter and clothing.

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