Providence man accused of leading store theft ring, making threats

WILLIAMSTOWN, Vt. (AP/WPRI) — Vermont State Police have accused a man of forcing women to steal bed sheets, bicycle parts, school supplies, and other items from Walmart stores in a theft ring across New England.

Police said Johnnie Hammond, 41, of Providence, Rhode Island, called “Poopie,” forced the women to shoplift and intimidated them with threats of beatings. Hammond denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty to theft and unlawful restraint in a court appearance Monday.

Court documents said police talked to women who said they were afraid of Hammond.

Police said Hammond instructed others to take the items, then would return them for store credit at other store locations. They said the return frauds happened in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

Police said they found a vehicle in Williamstown, Vermont, on Sunday, containing over $4,000 worth of stolen items and traced it to Hammond.

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