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LOSS-PREVENTION OFFICERS PART OF PROBLEM
Walmart loss-prevention officers guilty of stealing from Spotsylvania store

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FILE/PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 12/5/2012

BY KEITH EPPS

A young Spotsylvania man was convicted Tuesday of trying to do something he was paid to keep others from doing--stealing from Walmart.

Joshua Daniel Rodriguez, 22, pleaded guilty in Spotsylvania County Circuit Court to attempted robbery. He will be sentenced Feb. 27 by Judge David Beck.

As part of a plea agreement, Rodriguez had the choice accepting a three-year prison term or letting Beck decide his punishment. Rodriguez is facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

According to the evidence presented by Commonwealth's Attorney Bill Neely, Rodriguez was an off-duty loss-prevention officer at the Walmart on Southpoint Parkway in Spotsylvania when he entered the store on July 1 wearing a rubber "old man" mask.

He approached service manager Andreas Leikam and told him he had a store invoice that needed to be checked. He handed Leikam a clipboard with a note that read: "I have a gun. I need to get in the cash office, don't do anything stupid."

Leikam told Rodriguez he didn't have the keys to the office. Rodriguez called him a liar and told him not to do anything stupid and to let him into the office. Court records state that Rodriguez had his hand in his pocket as if he had a gun while talking to Leikam.

Leikam told Rodriguez that he wasn't opening the office, and radioed for help as Rodriguez fled carrying the clipboard and a black nylon bag. Store employees chased him as he ran into the woods.

Authorities responded and Deputy Delbert Myrick's police dog tracked a scent and found Rodriguez hiding in the woods between Walmart and Lowe's. The mask was tucked into the front of his shirt, and a black BB gun was among the items found near him.

Rodriguez is the second former loss-prevention officer at that Walmart store to be convicted recently of a felony that occurred when he was an employee.

Phillip L. Leonhart Jr., 28, was convicted last month of grand larceny and wearing a mask in public.

According to court records, Leonhart was off duty on April 16 when he entered the store wearing a rubber mask and sunglasses to disguise himself. Store surveillance cameras caught him stealing $1,069 worth of electronics and rolling them out of the store in a blue plastic storage container.

A deputy stopped him outside the store and he was arrested. He told police he was taking the items to support his family.

A subsequent investigation by store loss-prevention officers showed that Leonhart had used the same disguise to steal from the store nine other times between March 17 and the day he was arrested. At least $9,329 in merchandise was taken, court records show, including sewing machines, laptop computers and other electronics.

During that same time period, Leonhart sold many of the stolen items on eBay. Leonhart will be sentenced Jan. 8 in Spotsylvania Circuit Court.

According to the evidence, Rodriguez was on duty during some of Leonhart's thefts and appeared to be acting as a lookout. Neely agreed not to proceed with pending embezzlement charges against Rodriguez in exchange for his guilty plea Tuesday.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404
Email: kepps@freelancestar.com