Man tricked Walmart cashiers to give him more than $109,000 in multi-state crime spree

Published 10:06 pm Monday, December 4, 2023

A Canadian man pleaded guilty Friday and admitted using sleight-of-hand and other ruses to steal more than $109,000 from retailers in at least 11 states — including Alabama and Mississippi — during a nearly six-month crime spree.

As part of his guilty plea to wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property, Mohsen Akbari, 38, admitted entering the U.S. on March 1, 2023 from South Korea on a visitor visa.

He then traveled to Missouri, Illinois and at least 11 other states, where he would target Walmart stores and other retailers. After making a small purchase, Akbari would use a ruse to trick store employees into handing over cash. Akbari sometimes claimed that he and his family collected $100 bills and would ask the cashier to show him those from the cash register so he could examine them. Akbari would then surreptitiously place some of the bills into his sleeve or pocket.

Locally, Akbari stole a total of $2,420 from a Walmart in St. Peters, Missouri on June 12, 2023, $6,900 from a Granite City, Illinois store on June 13, $420 from an O’Fallon, Missouri store on June 14 and $900 from a store in Warrenton, Missouri the same day. He stole $580 from a Walmart in Eureka, Missouri and $5,100 from an Arnold, Missouri Walmart on June 15.

Akbari was arrested Aug. 22, 2023 in Connecticut with $5,388 in U.S. currency and 150 Australian dollars derived from the scheme. Akbari admitted stealing a total of $109,452. Authorities seized $69,864 from two of Akbari’s bank accounts. Akbari also wired some money to Canada.

Akbari is scheduled to be sentenced March 1, 2024. The wire fraud charge carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. The interstate transportation of stolen property charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and the same fine.