Allen has been under investigation since at least January for the alleged thefts on 25 occasions at Target and Hecht's stores, said police spokesman Lt. Eric Burnett. Police reviewed his credit card records to track his purchase.James Taranto at Best of the Web Today notes the blogosphere's discussion of the organized crime syndicate known as Claude Allen -- whether he's grist for the schadenfreude mill or a tragic tale of a high-flyer laid low by personal weaknesses -- and concludes that he's neither:
Police believe Allen would buy items, take them to his car, then return to the store with his receipt. He would select the same items, then take them to the store return desk and show the receipt from the first purchase. Using that method, he would receive credit for the second items on his credit cards, Burnett said.
Allen was allegedly seen Jan. 2 at a Target in Gaithersburg, Md., taking items off the shelf that he then took to the return desk. He had a receipt for the merchandise, was given a refund and left.
Assuming that the charges are true, this is one of those crimes that just make you scratch your head. Why would someone in a prominent position, who earned (according to the Times) $161,000 a year, risk it all to steal the equivalent of just over a week and a half's pay? Allen's alleged crime is neither petty enough to be excused nor big enough to be explained. It's just pitiful.
It'd be a shame if he's correct. Fifty-five "TGIS: Thank God It's Schadenfreude!" posts and counting amply demonstrate that I don't just love schadenfreude as much as the next guy, I love it so much that the next guy wonders what the hell is wrong with me.
Personally, I think the situation is actually much less mysterious than the press and commenters would have us believe. In essence, Claude Allen is just another Bush Administration official who reached his Target without either a well-considered exit strategy or a plan to pay for his adventure.