PALM DESERT, Calif. - 24 Palm Desert Walmart employees were arrested Wednesday following an investigation of an embezzlement scheme at the store.
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department said that employees from the 34500 Monterey Avenue store used employee coupon codes to load Walmart gift cards with money, then used the fraudulent cards to buy groceries, electronics and other miscellaneous items. They made the purchases at local Walmart stores throughout the Valley, including the one they were working at. Over 1000 unauthorized transactions were reported.
The employees are suspected of embezzling more than $25,000.
The investigation started two weeks ago when Walmart reported the possible embezzlement to the Palm Desert Business District Team.
During the course of the investigation, 24 suspects were identified and with the help of several agencies, 22 of the known suspects at the Palm Desert Walmart were arrested.
Fifteen of the suspects were booked into the Indio Jail for Embezzlement and Conspiracy charges:
- Lidia Estrada, 33-year-old resident of Palm Springs.
- Daniel Gonzalez, 41-year-old resident of Palm Desert.
- Marianne Calizo, 21-year-old resident of Palm Desert.
- Maria Zelaya, 26-year-old resident of Desert Hot Springs.
- Imauny Marshall, 19-year-old resident of Cathedral City.
- Carol Collins, 49-year-old resident of Desert Hot Springs.
- Noemi Zelaya, 29-year-old resident of Desert Hot Springs.
- Maria Contreras, 42-year-old resident of La Quinta.
- Ariadna Mayorga, 21-year-old resident of Desert Hot Springs.
- Alicia Herrera, 53-year-old resident of Desert Hot Springs.
- Miguel Esteban, 25-year-old resident of Bermuda Dunes.
- Roberto Luna, 29-year-old resident of La Quinta.
- Selene Melchor-Molina, 31-year-old resident of Desert Hot Springs.
- Amy Vasquez, 31-year-old resident of La Quinta.
- Edwin Rios, 19-year-old resident of Desert Hot Springs.
Six suspects were released pending further investigation. In addition, information gained during the investigation resulted in the recovery of property the suspects obtained while using the fraudulent Walmart cards.
We reached out to Walmart and this is the statement they issued:
“We’re disturbed by these allegations and will continue working closely with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department on their investigation. All other questions must be referred to local law enforcement.”
Director, National Media Relations
Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to call the Palm Desert Sheriff’s Station at (760) 836-1600.