ROCKVILLE, Md. – A former top White House aide to President Bush who was arrested for theft admitted to a Target Corp. investigator that he fraudulently returned merchandise that he didn't buy at one of the company's stores, according to charging documents.
Target loss prevention manager Pete Schomburg stopped Claude Allen, 45, on Jan. 2 as Allen left the Gaithersburg store after Allen allegedly received a refund for items using a receipt from an earlier purchase.
"Allen had receipts from pervious purchases at Target stores and admitted to Agent Schomburg that he was committing fraudulent returns," according to the charging documents filed March 7 by Montgomery County police, two days before Allen was charged with theft and theft scheme.
Police allege that Allen made fraudulent returns worth at least $5,000 at Target and other stores in the Washington suburbs on 25 different occasions. Charging documents cite several instances where store surveillance tapes show Allen making the refunds.
His lawyer, Mallon Snyder, has denied the charges, saying they are a result of problems with Allen's credit cards. Snyder said Tuesday that he did not have any comment on the charging documents.
Allen is scheduled to go on trial April 27.
Police initially charged Allen in the Jan. 2 incident with a misdemeanor, a charge that was dropped Thursday when he appeared in District Court. But later that day, he was arrested and charged with the more serious charges of theft and theft scheme over $500 in the other incidents. Each carry a possible prison sentence of 15 years.
Allen was a domestic policy adviser to President Bush with an annual salary of $161,000 before abruptly leaving the White House in February. At the time, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family. All the alleged incidents occurred while he was working at the White House.
White House officials said Allen notified chief of staff Andy Card the night of the Jan. 2 incident, but told Card it was a misunderstanding. Bush was informed of the incident and Allen's planned departure in February. On Saturday, Bush said it would be "deeply disappointing" if Allen did not tell the White House the truth about what happened.
The charging documents, first reported Tuesday by The Washington Post, also give detail on at least four other incidents where Allen allegedly received refunds for merchandise he did not pay for.
According to authorities, Allen would buy items, take them to his car, then return to the store and pick up identical items from store shelves. He would then take them to the return desk and use his original receipt to get credit on his credit cards.
On Oct. 29, Allen allegedly used the scheme for a $525 Bose theater system at a Gaithersburg Target. On Dec. 24, he returned $284.58 worth of merchandise, including a $237 Kodak printer, at a Germantown Target, a transaction watched by Target investigators.
On Dec. 30, Allen is seen on security video refunding $125.94 worth of merchandise that he paid for in cash, including a $60 men's jacket and two items that cost just $2.50. Two days later, he received a refund for a $88 stereo at a Rockville Target.