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Four Sarasota Residents Charged in Fraudulent Store Refund Scheme

According to law enforcement in Sarasota, four local men were charged last week with scheming to defraud in an alleged scheme to use trashed store receipts to make fraudulent refund requests.

Brandie Horsley, Thomas Harrison, David Walshaw, and James Buck were all charged in the case. Deputies claim to have observed the group going through store parking lots and trash bins, looking for receipts for food purchased with cash. Officers initially thought the group was going to break into cars in a Walmart parking lot but then realized they were looking for discarded receipts for food purchased with cash.

Reports indicate one member of the group then walked down the road to Publix where he searched through the trash for 10 minutes. When he met back up with the rest of the group at Walmart, one group member (Horsley) allegedly went to the customer service desk and used a found receipt for a refund. At several stores, the four repeated the practice of searching for discarded receipts and seeking refunds, the sheriff's office said. Horsley would purportedly take receipts to customer service counters and say she meant to use her food stamp card. According to investigators, she would ask that the card be charged for the receipt amount and the cash refunded to her instead.

In the single day that police surveilled them, the group allegedly tried to get cash at 14 gas stations and grocery stories. While most stores refused to provide a cash refund, at least three complied with the group's request, according to the report.

Assuming that the quartet did not succeed in getting more than $300 in cash refunds, the charge they face is a misdemeanor. Schemes to defraud can be charged as first-degree misdemeanors, third-degree felonies, second-degree felonies or first-degree felonies, depending on the total dollar value of the purported fraud.

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