PUNTA GORDA, Fla.- Charlotte County Sheriff's detectives Thursday arrested a Tropical Gulf Acres couple after using a stolen Walmart gift card. Paul William Bowling, 29, and Stephanie Anne Benning, 28, both of 27384 Treadmill Drive, were charged with Grand Theft and Dealing in Stolen Property.
On Nov. 17 CCSO received a call from a woman who works at the Punta Gorda Elks Lodge. She said her wallet was stolen out of a cabinet where employees put their personal items; she said she did not realize she left her wallet there the night before until after the Elks had closed. She told detectives her father gave her a Walmart gift card and had the card number. She checked Walmart’s website and found that her stolen gift card had been used twice on Nov. 17 at Walmart on Pine Island Road in North Fort Myers for a total of$356 in charges.
Detectives went to the Walmart store and obtained surveillance video which showed a man and a woman in a blue SUV enter the parking lot; both went into the store around 2:40 a.m. The woman made two separate transactions with the stolen gift card buying a VISA Green Dot Card and two other gift cards. Thursday, detectives made contact with the Murphy’s gas station on Kings Highway by the Deep Creek Walmart and located video showing the couple in the same blue SUV entering the gas pump area. The man made a purchase inside using the stolen gift card and then pumped gas when he returned to the vehicle.
Detectives took copies of surveillance videos to the Elks Lodge and showed them to a bartender who identified the woman as Benning, a member of thenight cleaning crew. Detectives located the name of her boyfriend who was identified as Bowling. Detectives met with Benning at her home and showed her the surveillance photos where the gift cards were used. She identified as herself and Bowling. Detectives later located Bowling who also identified himself and Benning from the surveillance photos. Both said the Walmart gift card was found in the Elks parking lot but made no effort to contact the Elks Lodge or authorities.
Benning and Bowling were arrested and transported to the Charlotte County Jail; both posted $7,500 each and were released.