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Shoplifting ‘like a full-time job,’ judge tells Dyson vacuum thief sent to prison

Police say William E. Secrest stole numerous Dyson vacuums to sell online or to return for refunds. He's been linked to thefts across Michigan.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — An affinity for drugs and Dyson vacuums now has William E. Secrest in prison for what a judge called an ongoing, seemingly relentless pattern of shoplifting that has put him behind bars time and again.

“Stealing from stores is like a full-time job for you,’’ Kent County Circuit Court Judge Curt Benson told Secrest during a recent sentencing hearing. “It’s something you do persistently.’’

While shoplifting crimes usually result in jail and probation, Benson said the message has not gotten through to Secrest.

“Judges before me have sent you to jail no fewer than 21 times,’’ he said. “And yet you keep stealing from stores. You’ve never been to prison.’’

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Benson gave Secrest a minimum prison sentence of about three years for retail fraud and larceny.

“It’s only now the court’s throwing up its hands and saying nothing is getting through to you,’’ Benson said. “It’s time for prison.’’

Secrest celebrated his 36th birthday this week at the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center in Jackson. It’s where he’ll stay prior to placement in Michigan’s general prison population.

“I just want to let you know that I’m really disappointed in myself,’’ Secrest told the judge. “I plan on changing my ways.’’

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Secrest had been living in the Allegan County community of Shelbyville. He was arrested in early January and charged with organized retail crime and first-degree retail fraud for thefts at the Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Plainfield Avenue NE just before Christmas.

According to court records, Secrest entered the Plainfield Township Lowe’s and bought two Dyson vacuums for $349 each. After leaving the store, he returned and grabbed two more vacuums “while having the receipt for the purchased vacuums in hand,’’ court records show.

Secrest then returned two of the four Dyson vacuums – a scheme he also committed at Lowe’s stores in Kentwood and Grandville the same day, court records show.

“He basically purchased it and used that same purchase receipt to return multiple items,’’ Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said. “And was able to get away with it several times.’’

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A Lowe’s loss prevention worker “found Secrest to be selling Dyson vacuums on Facebook market,’’ a detective wrote in a probable cause affidavit. “William Secrest was identified by Lowe’s staff as well as identified from surveillance by comparing social media photographs.’’

Court records indicate Secrest committed the same act in Muskegon, Battle Creek and Jackson.

Defense attorney Michael Anderson said substance abuse issues were behind the thefts.

“That’s primarily how Mr. Secrest is trying to fund that habit,’’ he told the court at sentencing. “Sometimes you really have to hit bottom to see the light. I think Mr. Secrest is at that point.’’

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