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SEARS EMPLOYEE ACCUSED OF ILLEGAL SHOPPING SPREE

An employee of the Sears store in McKinley Mall has been accused of going on an expensive shopping spree, illegally obtaining $10,430 in merchandise -- ranging from bikinis to videocassette recorders -- using gift cards obtained with stolen credit card numbers, Town of Hamburg police said today.

Detectives charged Nor Salem, 26, of South Park Avenue, Buffalo, with felony grand larceny, following the purchase of clothing, electronic equipment and other items at Sears stores in four local malls.

Detectives Kenneth Preston and Glenn Zawierucha, working with Officer Scott Kashino and Sears security officers, said Salem, who had worked only about a month as a Sears customer-service associate, used the credit card numbers of customers she had cashed out to obtain Sears gift cards worth $10,500.

Monday and Tuesday, those cards were used to purchase merchandise worth $10,430 at Sears stores in McKinley Mall, Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga, Boulevard Mall in Amherst and Summit Park Mall in Clarence, police said.

"I think it was a very simple scheme, if you're working for a company and have access to all these credit card numbers," Capt. A. Daniel Shea, chief of detectives, said today. "It was probably an easy touch for her."

Officers say they believe they recovered nearly all the illegally purchased items at the South Park Avenue address. The merchandise included shoes, underwear, skirts, jackets, videotapes, bedding, rugs and body lotion.

Additional charges, including forgery and possession of stolen property, were pending against Salem, who was held in the Town of Hamburg police lockup prior to her arraignment later today.

Police described her as a Malaysian national who has been in the United States on a visa since March. The woman reportedly told detectives that she has been supporting a family of six with the income from her job.

Hamburg detectives have notified local Immigration and Naturalization Service officials about Salem's arrest.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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