POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – That old Lowe’s slogan “Never Stop Improving” apparently doesn’t apply to a pair of Florida employees.
As many people are working part-time jobs and extra shifts just to pay the bills, deputies say, Solomon Smith, 19, was pocketing their hard-earned cash.
Smith and his co-worker, Garrett Sivley, 18, used their access at the Lakeland Highlands Lowe’s to redirect paychecks to themselves, authorities said.
“Lowe’s security called us and says ‘We think someone is taking payroll data out of our computer system’,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Sheriff Judd said Smith was the “mastermind” of the operation.
The pair is accused of changing the direct deposit information and sending the payroll funds to fraudulent bank accounts before moving the money to cash apps. Employees at two stores in Lakeland and one in Plant City were impacted.
According to the sheriff’s office, Smith and Sivley stole $11,795 from Lowe’s employees before the company notified law enforcement. No customer information was affected.
“We take this issue very seriously, and we immediately notified law enforcement and have continued to work closely with them on this ongoing investigation. We have also provided resources and support to associates affected,” wrote Maureen Wallace, of Lowe’s Companies, in a statement.
Smith and Sivley are now terminated.
“When we confronted [Smith] in the store, we took his cell phone and got a search warrant for that cell phone. Guess what we found? All kinds of evidence,” said Sheriff Judd.
As a result, detectives were able to link Smith to other crimes this year in Lakeland.
“Smith ‘utilized more than 30 personal identifications to create fraudulent banking accounts, email addresses, address changes, e-commerce accounts, or to change banking information,’” read a statement from the sheriff’s office.
Those identities were stolen during 20 car burglaries, some of which were armed, earlier this year in Lakeland.
“We would have never known that they committed all of these burglaries because we have photographs where he would garb up and hide himself to commit burglaries,” said Sheriff Judd.
Between the Lowe’s fraud and the car burglaries, Smith victimized 223 people, alleges Sheriff Judd.
Smith was arrested on dozens of charges, including grand theft, defrauding a financial institute, money laundering, armed burglary, and grand theft of a firearm.
Smith’s criminal history includes six felony charges and five misdemeanors. Smith was out on bond related to five open criminal cases.
Sivley faces charges of grand theft, computer fraud and gross fraud, among other charges.