by: Greg Suskin Updated:
STATESVILLE, N.C. - Statesville police put extra officers on patrol Friday night in case a fourth bomb threat is called into the Walmart store there.
Someone has called the store the last three nights in a row demanding money and claiming they've planted a bomb inside.
Elizabeth Levitt was driving to the store when she saw people racing from the parking lot, and dozens of others standing outside the store.
"There were a lot of people getting out as fast as they could," she said. "All the employees were huddled together away from the store. It's kind of scary. All the Walmart employees were standing over by Red Lobster (restaurant) where the railing is, like they didn't know what to do."
Statesville police brought dogs to the store, but didn't find anything after the threats Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night.
Capt. Bryan Johnson believes it's part of a nationwide scam against Walmart stores, possibly originating overseas.
The caller spoke with an accent in broken English, Walmart employees told police.
"We are reaching out to federal authorities to see if what happened in Statesville is connected to the scams going on across the country," Johnson said.
Police said the unknown caller demanded that $1,000 be loaded onto a prepaid card and wanted the card numbers to transfer the money.
Similar incidents have been reported at the retail giant across the country.
Shoppers were told to park their carts and leave the store. Employees then had to restock everything when some customers didn't return after the evacuation.
Johnson said this appears to be another variation of an evolving scam, but now there is the threat of violence.
"Once they realize that, 'Well, this isn't working anymore,' looks like they've changed it to a different thing, and now it appears to be a bomb threat," he said.
Statesville police met with Walmart staff late Friday to talk about what to do if this happens again, and how to work together to possibly identify the suspects.
A similar bomb threat was called into another Walmart store in Charlotte Thursday night. It's believed they are all linked to the same scam to extort money from the retailer.
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