ZEBULON — Police on Tuesday arrested a Raleigh man they say was running an elaborate embezzling scheme at the local Verizon Wireless store.
Raleigh police took Mitchell Thomas Pruitt, 35, of 3701 Birch Brook Court, into custody on charges of embezzlement and identity theft filed by Zebulon police. An arrest warrant alleges Pruitt took about $5,250 from the store, where he was a manager and employee of about one year, but Zebulon police believe he took more.
Pruitt was the second supervisor charged with embezzling from the location in the past month and the third in the past year. An assistant manager was charged with taking $3,150 from the store in early July and another manager was charged with embezzling $4,000 in August 2012.
Zebulon police Chief Tim Hayworth said Pruitt likely knew the assistant manager who was charged in early July since they worked together, but said the three cases over the last year appear to be unrelated.
The first two supervisors charged with embezzlement are believed to have simply taken cash intended for deposit at a local bank. The scheme police have charged Pruitt with running is much more complicated.
Verizon’s loss prevention unit red-flagged a fraudulent cellphone account police say Pruitt had opened in another person’s name. Through such accounts, Pruitt made fake sales and returns to embezzle both money and equipment, Hayworth said.
Police also believe Pruitt was conducting business away from the store through the accounts.
“I’ve got to give (Verizon) their props for catching this,” Zebulon Det. Sgt. Dale Gant said. “It’s a lot of account manipulation and it’s a matter of how in the world do you go through and figure out what all he’s done and where.”
Hayworth said the charges of identity theft stemmed from Pruitt’s manipulation of two young employees of the store, using their log-in names and numbers to make the fraudulent transactions.
“An initial look at the case made it look like these kids were involved in the embezzlement,” Hayworth said. “A lot of time was spent looking for the right answers.
“(Pruitt) was trying to make it appear these other people were committing the crime, when in fact he was their boss and he was doing it.”
Neither of the employees, both in their early 20s, were charged in the case.
Police say Pruitt has worked for several wireless stores in the past. Hayworth suspects he may have been involved in similar crimes at other locations.
“Generally what we find is a person discovers a way they think they can commit a crime and get away with it,” Hayworth said. “The more they get away with it, the more they commit it and the more reckless they get.”
Pruitt was taken to the Wake County Jail, where he remained as of Wednesday afternoon under $50,000 secured bond. State records show he was convicted of misdemeanor larceny in Wake County in 1998.