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ROCK HILL – An Indian Land woman suspected of shoplifting more than $1.5 million in merchandise from Hobby Lobby stores in North Carolina in the past two years was arrested by Rock Hill police this week.
The Wednesday, June 12, arrest of Maria Steele, 58, 18301 Greyfield Glen, followed a shoplifting incident at the Hobby Lobby on Meeting Boulevard in Rock Hill earlier that day.
The incident report said the store’s loss prevention officer called police about 3:30 p.m., saying he’d recognized Steele, known to him by the alias “Marie Vera,” from a loss prevention report sent out from company headquarters.
According to the loss prevention officer, the arts and crafts company believes “Vera” and other family members helping her, have earned an estimated $480,000 in the past two years selling the stolen items at 75 percent below retail.
The store officer said when Steele realized he was following her, she left the store carrying a “big black handbag” and a Hobby Lobby shopping bag, and walked to a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, the incident report said.
Steele left the restaraunt a few minutes later, the loss prevention officer said. When she saw him watching her, she ran across the parking lot, jumped into a white Jeep and drove off.
The store officer said he was on the phone with headquarters when he got a call from the restaurant saying they’d found a bag of Hobby Lobby merchandise in the women’s restroom hidden in a trash can underneath the trash bag.
Surveillance video from the restaurant reportedly showed Steele, wearing a bright green shirt and carrying the bags, come through the front door, go straight to the restroom and leave a few minutes later.
The value of the recovered merchandise was $475.74.
Further investigation soon linked “Vera” with Steele, whose photograph and address matched both DMV records and the Hobby Lobby “BOLO.”
The report said Rock Hill police requested the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office’s help in serving a warrant for Steele’s arrest, and that within minutes a deputy picked her up at her home in Indian Land.
According to the incident report, the Mooresville, (N.C.), Police Department suspects Steele’s connection with several thefts at the Hobby Lobby there.
As of Thursday, June 13, Steele was held at the Rock Hill Police Department jail on suspicion of shoplifting.
Though police suspect Steele may have worked the incidents with her husband “and other family members,” as of deadline Thursday there had been no further arrests in the case.
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151