- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006


A former top aide to President Bush who was arrested on theft charges admitted to a Target Corp. investigator that he fraudulently returned merchandise that he didn’t buy at one of the company’s stores in Gaithersburg, charging documents show.

Target loss prevention manager Pete Schomburg stopped Claude Allen, 45, on Jan. 2 as Mr. Allen left the Gaithersburg store after receiving a refund for items using a receipt from an earlier purchase.

“Allen had receipts from previous purchases at Target stores and admitted to Agent Schomburg that he was committing fraudulent returns,” said charging documents filed March 7 by Montgomery County police. Two days later, Mr. Allen was charged with theft and theft scheme.

Police say Mr. Allen made fraudulent returns worth at least $5,000 at Target and other stores in the D.C. suburbs on 25 occasions. Charging documents cite several instances in which store surveillance tapes show Mr. Allen making the returns.

His attorney, Mallon Snyder, has denied the charges, saying they are a result of problems with Mr. Allen’s credit cards. Mr. Snyder said yesterday that he did not have any comment on the charging documents.

Mr. Allen is scheduled to go on trial April 27.

Police initially charged Mr. Allen in the Jan. 2 incident with a misdemeanor, a charge that was dropped Thursday when he appeared in District Court.

Later Thursday, he was arrested and charged with the more serious charges of theft and theft scheme more than $500 in the other incidents. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

Mr. Allen was a domestic policy adviser to Mr. Bush, with an annual salary of $161,000, before abruptly leaving the White House last month.

At the time, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family. All the incidents occurred while he was working at the White House.

White House officials said Mr. Allen notified Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. the night of the Jan. 2 incident, but told Mr. Card it was a misunderstanding.

Mr. Bush was informed of the incident and Mr. Allen’s planned departure in February. On Saturday, Mr. Bush said it would be “deeply disappointing” if Mr. Allen did not tell the White House the truth about what happened.

The charging documents, first reported yesterday by The Washington Post, also give details of at least four other incidents in which Mr. Allen received refunds for merchandise for which he did not pay.

Authorities said Mr. Allen would buy items, take them to his car, then return to the store and pick up identical items from store shelves. He then would take the items to the return desk and use his original receipt to obtain credit on his credit cards.

On Oct. 29, Mr. Allen purportedly 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, Mr. Allen is seen on security video refunding $125.94 worth of merchandise for which he paid in cash, including a $60 men’s jacket and two items that cost $2.50. Two days later, he received a refund for an $88 stereo at a Rockville Target.

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