CF man gets probation for cashing forged checks, shoplifting spree

Apr. 29 — EAU CLAIRE – A Chippewa Falls man will spend two years on probation for engaging in a shoplifting spree at Scheels over a five-day period and cashing stolen checks.

Thomas B. Harding, 30, 18334 50th Ave., was found guilty Thursday in Eau Claire County Court of felony counts of retail theft and forgery. Two felony counts of bail jumping and misdemeanor counts of theft and bail jumping were dismissed but considered at sentencing by Judge Jon Theisen.

As conditions of probation, Theisen ordered Harding to maintain absolute sobriety and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and any recommended programming or treatment.

Harding must also pay $ 2,059 in restitution and not have contact with known drug dealers or users.

According to the criminal complaint in the shoplifting case:

A police officer was sent to Scheels regarding three retail thefts that were committed by Harding between Oct. 28 and Nov. 2. Store surveillance video from all three thefts identified Harding as the suspect. The amount of merchandise taken in the three thefts totaled $ 780.

The first incident occurred at 10:16 am on Oct. 28. Harding walked into the store and selected two sweatshirts. He took the tag off of one of the sweatshirts and put it on over the top of his clothes. Harding then left the store carrying the second sweatshirt.

Eight hours later, Harding entered the store again. He selected a hat and concealed it in the waistband of his pants. A woman accompanying Harding selected a speaker and a down jacket. They walked out of the store without paying for the items.

Harding entered the store again on Nov. 2 and selected some archery equipment and a pair of jeans. He concealed the archery equipment in his jacket.

Harding was confronted by Scheels staff after he exited a fitting room. He was confronted because he had been permanently banned from Scheels years earlier.

Harding gave staff the jeans he had in his hand coming out of the fitting room.

Tags from the jeans Harding had selected in the store were found in the pocket of the jeans Harding gave to staff. The jeans Harding gave to staff were dirty and well worn.

At the time of the theft incidents, Harding was free on a signature bond for a pending felony case in Eau Claire County.

According to the criminal complaint in the forgery case:

Police were alerted Oct. 12 of an attempt in progress to cash a stolen and fraudulent check at a Royal Credit Union branch in Eau Claire.

When police arrived at the business, Harding’s car accelerated out of the drive-thru lane, over a curb and sidewalk, and onto the road. An Eau Claire police officer turned on his squad car lights, and Harding immediately pulled his vehicle into a nearby convenience store parking lot. The officer then arrested Harding.

Police called the owner of the stolen checks, who said Harding took them the previous week or two. Harding had successfully cashed $ 800 in checks before the owner closed the account.

When police retrieved the stolen checkbook from Harding’s car, they found five checks written to himself for a total of $ 5,000. He also had $ 1,305 in cash in the car, which police seized due to suspected theft.

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