When Claude Allen, President Bush's longtime domestic-policy adviser, resigned suddenly on Feb. 9, it baffled administration critics and fans. The White House claimed that Allen was leaving to spend more time with his family, while the Washington Times speculated that the 45-year-old aide, a noted social conservative, might have quit to protest a new Pentagon policy about military chaplains. Allen himself never publicly explained the reason for his departure.It may be an indicator that I am perhaps too naive to write political commentary, but I'd never even heard of this form of theft. Frankly, it never would have crossed my mind, but it sounds like a lot of crooks are doing it. But does it really work? I mean, don't almost all the "big ticket" items come with electronic anti-theft devices in their packaging these days? If you "return" an item that hasn't had that device disabled, it's a pretty good indicator that it never left the store. I'm surprised he got away with it at all.
News today may shed light on the mystery of Allen's resignation. According to the Montgomery County Police Department, Allen was arrested yesterday and charged in a felony theft and a felony theft scheme.
Allen is charged with practicing a form of shoplifting called "refund fraud." In general, a refund-fraud scam goes like this: You purchase an itemÂa CD player, let's sayÂand leave the store with it. Then you come back to the store and pick up exactly the same CD player; you take the CD player and receipt from the original purchase to the returns desk, claiming that this is the item you bought, and get a refund for it. You keep the original CD player, and pay nothing.
According to the department, Allen sought refunds for more than $5,000 in the past year. Allen allegedly stole items as expensive as a Bose theater system and a photo printer. Theft of more than $500 is a felony in Maryland.
And an even larger question is... why? Why was this guy - a major player in the GOP by all accounts - jacking DVD players at Target? Regardless of the nature of some of Bush'crony appointments, you wouldn't think the guy would need to steal items like that, and the risk was incredible. I mean, sure... you might have spent your time highjacking liquor trucks before Bush tapped you for a new gig, but once you're on the inside, you'd think you would be making enough money to not have to do things like that.
Is he just a klepto? That doesn't ring true either. From what I understand of it, true kleptomaniacs get their thrills from the actual smuggling of the items. It's the excitement of possibly getting caught and the physical, tactile sensation of taking the item without permission. It doesn't sound to me like this sort of "refund fraud" would fill the bill for them.
We may never know. In any event, add this story on as one more black eye for an administration already rife with scandals of corruption. This is definitely one of the more weird ones, though.