A Hannaford supermarket lost thousands of dollars worth of groceries to a man who used the universal price code from a 33-cent package of Kool-Aid to scan purchases in the self-checkout line, according to recent indictments.

Goffstown resident Jeffrey Tower, 53, was caught on security cameras 28 times this past May allegedly making the bogus purchases at the Hannaford in Goffstown, according to police affidavits filed in connection to the case.

In all, the take amounted to more than $2,300 worth of items, police wrote. The individual transactions involved anywhere from three to 13 items, and nearly all included meat: Angus eye round, Angus T-bone, beef loin tips, tenderloin and Angus filet mignon, as well as cooked shrimp.

A message left on Tower’s mobile phone was not immediately returned, and a lawyer was not listed on his Hillsborough County Superior Court case summary.

The charges show that while large retailers increasingly rely on self-checkouts, they are subject to manipulation and fraud at the hands of inventive customers.

Ericka Dodge, a spokesman for Hannaford, said the company does not comment on pending legal proceedings.

Police reports say that Hannaford contacted police about the alleged thefts, and police based their case on surveillance footage from the supermarket’s security cameras.

The surveillance video captured Tower picking up Kool-Aid packages and placing them beneath or beside items that he ran through the checkout scanner, police reports say.

“Jeffrey (Tower) appears to intentionally place the .33 cent Kool-Aid packets under or to the side of the more expensive items so the items’ actual UPCs do not get scanned,” reads a police affidavit.

Miscellaneous items include Little Debbie cakes, Bounty paper towels, Doritos, Lindt chocolates, pistachios and Prestone antifreeze.

When confronted by police, Tower initially said the food was for himself. But when pressed he said “sometimes it’s for (him) and sometimes for cash, you know to get by,” police wrote.

When he was arrested in June, police found a small amount of fentanyl in his pocket. Tower was released on his own recognizance after his arrest.

A Hillsborough County grand jury indicted him late last month on charges of Class A felony theft, fraudulent retail transaction and drug possession.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021