A Madison man faces federal charges after he allegedly switched price stickers on expensive tools and other merchandise at Home Depot stores around the state before using a self-checkout station to purchase them.
Aaron D. Hoster, 51, is charged with one count each of wire fraud and attempted wire fraud because he paid with credit and/or debit cards to purchase the items, according to court documents.
Hoster’s alleged actions cost the retailer thousands of dollars in lost sales, although the exact amount was not included in the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
He allegedly took stickers containing the universal product code scanned by registers from items ranging from $1 to $37.50 and placed them over the codes for items priced from $89.98 to $1,229.
He purchased more than 135 items in Maine stores between June 16, 2021, and Aug. 11, 2022, from specialty vacuum cleaners to chainsaws to nail guns to leaf blowers, the complaint said. Hoster allegedly sold the merchandise for less than its retail value.
The complaint lists ticket switching at Home Depot stores in eight cities including Bangor, Topsham, Portland, Auburn and Augusta.
Hoster’s alleged first transaction was for a DeWalt miter saw that retailed for $449. He paid $12.97 for it using a price sticker for 225 feet of weed trimmer line.
His last purchase in Maine was for a DeWalt 20-volt, 16-gauge cordless angled finish nailer kit priced at $439. He used a $19.98 sticker from 225 feet of weed trimmer line to buy it.
Home Depot’s fraud department asked federal investigators to get involved last August, the complaint said. Security cameras in several Maine stores captured Hoster switching price stickers on items and leaving stores with merchandise far bigger than what was listed on his receipts.
Hoster was arrested in August in Westminster, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, and charged with felony theft there for ticket switching at Home Depot stores in that state. He was ordered held without bail.
He pleaded guilty to that charge in October and was sentenced to three years in prison with all but one year suspended to be followed by three years of probation, according to online records in the Maryland court system. Hoster also was ordered to pay $4,175 in restitution.
Hoster was released on March 10, 2023, and returned to Maine, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Bangor. Three days later, Hoster was in the Waterville Home Depot where he allegedly switched price tags. He was confronted by store staff, who had been alerted to his scheme, but he abandoned the merchandise and ran, the complaint said.
He was arrested in Maine on Wednesday. The circumstances surrounding his arrest are not included in court documents.
Hoster made his first court appearance last week in U.S. District Court in Bangor. He was not asked to enter pleas to the charges as he has not yet been indicted by a federal grand jury.
On Friday, U.S. Magistrate John Nivison ordered that Hoster be held without bail.
If convicted of the federal charges, Hoster faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He also could be ordered to pay thousands of dollars in restitution to Home Depot.