Decatur man accused of stealing from 217 Macy’s stores

Channel 2's Rachel Stockman reports.

The FBI believes a Decatur man may be responsible for duping sales people at more than 200 Macy’s stores around the country into giving him refunds without ever purchasing any merchandise.

Theodore James Winston was arrested last week on fraud charges.

According to a criminal complaint, in the last year, investigators suspect that Winston likely tricked customer service managers at 217 Macy’s location across 31 states into processing 304 refunds for products that were never purchased.

The fraud was committed over the telephone, according to investigators.

“Once the caller is connected with the EIC [Macy’s executive in charge], he identifies himself as Mark or Mike Miller, Director of Customer Service in New York. To legitimize his identity as Director of Customer Service, the caller mentions the names of actual Macy’s management personnel,” the complaint reads.

Investigators said he goes on to say he is calling on behalf of an unhappy longtime customer who was attempting to exchange a dress. Then the caller goes on to direct the sales representative to refund the purchase.

FBI agents believe the caller is Theodore Winston, who lives on Memorial Drive.

Investigators said they were able to link the crime to Winston because he requested the receipts sent to his email address. Macy’s internal investigators turned the case over to the FBI.

“The person was giving email addresses that were trackable, he had a Facebook page that was trackable, he gave photographs and even used his phone number … not the smartest criminal,” said Brent Brown, who runs Chesley Brown Companies, a corporate security firm.

“They (Macy’s) probably need to look at some internal checks and balances,” Brown said.

Shoppers are shocked that investigators said he was able to pull off the scheme so many times.

“He could sweet talk them, they would do it for him and never even question beyond that,” said Susan Barrows, a shopper.

No one from Macy’s corporate has responded to emails requesting a response to this story.