Vail Valley woman sues Walmart for wrongful firing after store’s surveillance video exonerates her from theft allegation
AVON — A Vail Valley woman was falsely accused of theft, and after a police investigation exonerated her is suing Walmart for wrongfully firing her, her lawsuit says.
Maria Eustolia Gallegos checked her receipt and noticed she had overpaid for some items while shopping at Avon’s Walmart on Aug. 23, 2017, according to the lawsuit filed by her attorney, Jim Fahrenholtz, of the Avon law firm Fahrenholtz and Wiens.
She went to the customer service manager, Luis Antonio Banega Ulloa, to check the items and get a refund.
Ulloa canceled Gallegos’ transaction and asked one of Walmart’s customer service associates to ring up her purchases for the correct amount.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Almost a month went by, and on Sept. 19, 2017, Gallegos, a Walmart employee, was summoned over the store’s public address system to report to the office.
Gallegos was detained and interrogated by Walmart asset protection staffers, her manager and other Avon Walmart employees. She was told if she admitted to theft, then all would be forgiven, the lawsuit said.
Gallegos responded by asking why she would admit to stealing something when she did not steal anything.
That’s when one of the Walmart employees called the Avon Police Department.
The lawsuit alleges that Bryan Tarver, Avon Walmart’s asset protection manager, gave Avon Police investigators a copy of the original receipt but not the return receipt or the second receipt that showed the correct amount Gallegos paid.
Tarver told the investigators that they wanted Gallegos charged with theft. An Avon Police officer arrested Gallegos, handcuffed her and led her out of the store in front of other employees, the lawsuit alleges.
However, the lawsuit alleges that during an Oct. 16, 2017, interview, Ulloa told Avon Police that investigators might not have been shown the entire surveillance video and that he did not think Gallegos had shoplifted. Ulloa also said he quit his job after his managers questioned his integrity and that he felt “disrespected.”
As Avon Police continued their investigation, they became concerned that Gallegos might have been wrongfully accused, the lawsuit says. When he tried to speak with Tarver, the officer was told Tarver had been fired, the lawsuit says.
Avon officers studied the receipts and looked at the surveillance video again, but this time they were shown much more footage. That video showed no criminal activity, the lawsuit says.
The Avon officers recommended to Avon’s city prosecutor that the case be dismissed, which the prosecutor did.
The lawsuit asks for compensation, damages, interest and attorneys fees.
Walmart had not returned a request for comment by press time. No court date has yet been set.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.