Two Austin Auto Zone employees charged with theft of around $30K in merchandise

(ABC 6 News) – Two Austin Auto Zone employees appeared in Mower County Court after being accused of working together to steal and sell around $30,000 worth of merchandise from their employer.

Auto Zone staffer Jerimiah Coal Beaman, 24, and Auto Zone store manager Christopher David Simmons, 40, each face two charges of felony theft — one charge of theft valued between $5,000 and $35,000, and one charge of theft valued between $1,000 and $5,000 that took place between Oct. 1, 2022 and Feb. 8, 2023.

According to Austin police, officers reported to the car dealership at 1100 18th Avenue NW around 10 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8.

According to court documents, a loss prevention employee called APD to report that she had been investigating Beaman for store thefts and saw him loading stolen items worth about $1,000 into his truck.

The employee told police that when she confronted Beaman, he told her Simmons, the store sales manager, had recruited him to steal and sell items from the business.

Beaman claimed he stored stolen items at his home, but that Simmons managed the sales.

According to court documents, the store had reported a loss of $57,326.27 in total thefts from the store between November of 2022 and February of 2023.

According to the loss prevention employee, the store “knew” that Beaman and Simmons were responsible for “more than half” of the stolen merchandise.

According to court documents, Simmons allegedly called Beaman during his conversation with APD, expecting Beaman to drop of stolen items at his residence.

APD officers allegedly followed Beaman home and retrieved roughly $2,000 in stolen rotors, brakes, batteries, and shocks from his garage.

Officers claimed Simmons was seen in the area of the Auto Zone store, then Beaman’s residence during the investigation. After Beaman was arrested and taken to the Mower County Jail, Beaman’s wife reportedly called 9-1-1 and told officers Simmons was at her home looking through the windows at about 12:40 a.m. Thursday Feb. 9.

According to court documents, officers did not locate Simmons at Beaman’s home, but made contact with Simmons at his own residence.

Simmons allegedly offered to let officers search his garage, where a sergeant found a brand-new vehicle battery in the backseat of one of his vehicles.

Simmons was arrested and taken to Mower County jail as well.

Before he left his home, APD reported that he gave an officer his set of Auto Zone keys, “as he knew he would not need them anymore.”

According to court documents, Beaman told officers Thursday that he had completed 10-12 deliveries of stolen items for cash at Simmons’ behest between October of 2022 and Feb. 8.

Beaman said there were also times when he saw people come to the Auto Zone store, ask for Simmons, then take items without paying, according to court documents.

He also told law enforcement he would take stolen items to local car repair shops and businesses and exchange them for cash.

Simmons also spoke to law enforcement on Thursday, and allegedly admitted to stealing and selling items from Auto Zone since about a year previous, once he saw how easy it was to get “free money.”

Simmons allegedly told officers he made a “huge mistake” and “got in over his head.”

Simmons said he and Beaman had sold $100-200 in items per week from February of 2022 to October of 2022, but had escalated since October and stolen $500-1,000 in items per week, according to court documents.

Simmons allegedly also admitted that he and Beaman provided stolen items to Austin residents and businesses at a reduced price.

Both men are scheduled to appear again in court Feb. 23, 2023.

Austin’s Auto Zone location declined to comment on the case.