You know how some people buy clothing, wear it, then return it to the store?
A former Mrs. America is in hot water for allegedly pulling that scam at Macy’s.
Jennifer Kline of Wayzata, Minnesota, also a former home shopping network host, was charged Tuesday with theft by swindle for making several fraudulent returns worth more than $5,000 to the Macy’s store at the Mall of America.
The criminal complaint says that Kline, 50, bought nearly $5,800 worth of clothes on two consecutive days in early November from a different Macy’s at a mall in Edina, Minnesota.
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Then, she allegedly returned most of the clothes to the Mall of America store on two separate days later in November. She got $5,501 in refunds.
A Macy’s store detective who examined the returned clothes noticed that the tags and labels on the clothing had been switched, and some of the returned clothing was dirty and looked like it had been worn, according to court documents.
“Due to the label switching, it is not possible to identify the original brand of the item of the store from which the item was originally purchased,” the documents said.
Edina police searched Kline’s home and found 24 items of clothing she had bought at the first Macy’s store but allegedly had returned to the second store.
“Macy’s sustained a total loss on the refunded items,” the criminal complaint said.
The fraudulent return of used, non-defective merchandise by unscrupulous customers, known as “wardrobing,” is a constant problem for retailers.
In a recent poll by the National Retail Federation, 73 percent of retailers surveyed said they had experienced wardrobing in the past year.
Retailers estimated that 3.5 percent of the industry’s total returns in 2015 - worth about $9.1 billion - were fraudulent.
“While technology has played a significant role in deterring many in-person fraudulent transactions that would have otherwise gone unseen, there is little that can be done to prevent a determined criminal who will find a loophole one way or another,” said NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention Bob Moraca.
“When it comes to retail fraud, retailers can build taller walls, but criminals continue to find taller ladders.”
Retailers have started tightening up return policies to fight the problem. To discourage folks from buying big TVs to watch the Super Bowl, for instance, electronic stores charge hefty restocking fees.
Some stores are keeping lists of serial returners; others have ended their generous, lifetime return policies because customers took advantage.
Kline was crowned Mrs. America in 1989. She was also a host on ShopNBC/EVINE Live and a member of “Real Housewives of the Twin Cities.”
She appeared in court on Tuesday. She faces up to 10 years in prison and/or $20,000 for this felony offense.
Her next day in court is May 9.