By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Two shoplifters, jailed in Mankato after allegedly stealing thousands of DVDs from Walmarts across the Midwest, recently reached plea deals in Blue Earth County before being sent to South Dakota to face felony charges there.
One-year prison sentences were stayed for the Apple Valley, Calif., women. They were both sentenced to serve the 150 days they had spent in jail since their arrests in September and ordered to pay about $6,920 in restitution.
Walmart employees in Minnesota and surrounding states had been warned about a scheme two women were using to steal DVDs when Noe Baldiva-Corral, 39, and Samantha Velez-Diaz, 27, arrived at the Mankato Walmart on Sept. 26. The women grabbed an $80 suitcase from the luggage department. Then one of the women created a distraction by making a purchase in the electronics area while the other woman filled the suitcase with more than 200 DVDs.
A security alarm was triggered as the women left the store at the same time. The woman with the suitcase kept going while the other woman explained that it must have been her purchase that triggered the sensors.
Because managers had heard about similar schemes taking place at other stores, they checked surveillance video and were able to identify the car the women left in. It was stopped by a state trooper about two hours later near New Auburn and the two women were arrested.
There had been similar thefts in Owatonna and Worthington the day before the Mankato incident. Items that had been stolen from Owatonna and Mankato were found in the car, but hundreds of DVDs stolen from the southern Minnesota stores, totaling a value of about $13,000, were not in the car. Investigators eventually learned the women had stopped at Fed Ex offices in Worthington and Mankato and shipped the DVDs to a Los Angeles suburb.
In all, the women are suspected of stealing more than $100,000 in merchandise from Walmart stores in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
After pleading guilty to the Mankato thefts, the women waived fighting extradition to Clay County, S.D., where they are facing grand theft charges for allegedly stealing DVDs from a Walmart in Vermillion. Velez-Diaz and Baldiva-Corral will likely be returned to Minnesota, however. Charges for the thefts from the Owatonna Walmart were filed Jan. 7 and March 20 court dates have been scheduled for both women.