Theft From Convenience Store An Inside Job, Police Say

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Two women have been arrested in connection with the November 2003 theft at the old Whiting gas station.

Susan Wicks, 37, and Lori Meredith, 30, were arrested on various charges, including theft, fraudulent schemes and conspiracy.

Wicks was a new employee of the convenience store at the time of the alleged robbery. She told officers she was stocking items in the refrigerator and preparing to close when the robber entered the store.

"(Wicks) said the individual entered the front door, came towards the refrigerator area and basically pushed her down and started to choke her with some kind of object," Sgt. Tom Tieman said.

Wicks said the man then tied up her hands and feet, left her in the refrigerator and made off with about $100 cash.

Wicks told police she could not give a good description of the robber but he wore dark clothes, a dark baseball cap, Levis and work boots.

"The assistant manager arrived back and discovered that the new employee wasn't in the office area and went back to the refrigerator area where she knew she was working when she left," Tieman said.

According to Tieman, the assistant manager, Meredith found Wicks, untied her and the two went out the front to find a mutual friend who happened to pull up into the parking lot and went to the sheriff's office to report the incident. The sheriff's office called the Payson police.

Although police investigated the incident like a robbery, they say they were immediately suspicious.

Upon further investigation, the total amount of money stolen was closer to $8,000.

"It turned out there were several deposits that had not been made and all the cash was missing out of the deposits and the only thing left were checks," Tieman said. "Procedure wasn't followed and that started the suspicions."

Wicks and Meredith were friends, often staying at each other's homes, Tieman said.

"Wicks' story didn't add up," Tieman said. "She said she was tied up and strangled with electrical cord, but she had no marks and the cord tied in a slip knot. She could not give a description of the person who was standing in front of her, tying her up. The place wasn't ransacked and there was money left on the counter below the cash register that wasn't touched."

Another clue was that the store surveillance video tape was not in the machine.

"(Wicks and Meredith) were in cahoots," Tieman said. "Shortly after (Wicks) was hired, they planned it. (Meredith) left to take a sick employee home and while she did that, (Wicks) did her part to make it look like a robbery. Her friend came back and they finished the scenario."

On June 2, a grand jury indicted Wicks for four felony crimes -- one count each of theft, fraudulent schemes, conspiracy and burglary. A warrant was issued for her arrest and on July 6, sheriff's deputies arrested Wicks and she was booked into the Gila county jail.

Meredith also was indicted by a grand jury on June 2 on two counts of theft, one count of fraudulent schemes and conspiracy. She was arrested July 20 in the Valley, and was booked into the Globe jail.

A $10,000 bond was set for each woman. Wicks was released July 15 and no bond was posted. Meredith remains in custody in Globe.

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