Crime

Detectives unmask the reason behind the missing inventory at the SpookShop in Bellingham

The SpookShop in Bellingham, shown here in 2002, sells masks and costumes. A former employee was arrested by the Whatcom County Sheriff's department for allegedly using a key to enter the store and stealing thousands of dollars in costumes, leaving the Bellingham store "struggling to stay in business."
The SpookShop in Bellingham, shown here in 2002, sells masks and costumes. A former employee was arrested by the Whatcom County Sheriff's department for allegedly using a key to enter the store and stealing thousands of dollars in costumes, leaving the Bellingham store "struggling to stay in business." The Bellingham Herald file

A former employee of the SpookShop was arrested by the Whatcom County Sheriff's department Sunday after he allegedly used a key to enter the Bellingham store multiple times and stole thousands of dollars in costumes, selling them online and leaving the costume store "struggling to stay in business."

The arrest of Ronald J. Bally, 59, was the result of an investigation that began after the store owner began noticing missing costumes, wigs and masks, according to Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks.

According to police records, the owner first reported missing inventory after attempting to fill an order for a mask of the Muppets character Animal on April 26, 2017. Despite inventory showing the store had the mask in stock, the owner could not find it in the warehouse.

In order to fill the order, the owner found an identical mask on eBay from a seller identified as "someweirdsin," and had it shipped to the customer.

When the owner checked to make sure the order had shipped the next day, they noticed it shipped from Bellingham, not Portland, Oregon, as was listed on eBay. The shop owner checked his Paypal account and saw that Bally, a 12-year employee of the SpookShop who quit in the spring of 2016, had received payment for the item under his own name.

The owner reported the alleged theft to the sheriff's office, but an inventory check wasn't completed until September 2017. The owner created a spreadsheet listing items for sale by "someweirdsin" between Aug. 22 and 27 -- items also missing from the Spookshop inventory totaling $170,000 wholesale, according to Parks.

On Nov. 20, the owner reported an early-morning burglary that occurred a day earlier, when a suspect was caught on surveillance video coming from the main warehouse and entering the store carrying items. The video also showed the suspect using a key to open the shop's back door.

Bally allegedly posted four costumes for sale Nov. 21, three of which were identical to ones found missing after the burglary.

On Feb. 1 , 2018, a detective interviewed Bally, who admitted to selling costumes on eBay as "someweirdsin" and eventually admitted to still having a key for the SpookShop, entering the store on "three or four occasions" and stealing costumes, according to the report.

Bally also reportedly admitted to having possession of Spookshop inventory and gave the detective consent to search his home, where several hundred boxes of costumes and masks were found.

While Bally had receipts to show he had purchased hundreds of masks, he reportedly set aside 96 boxes containing inventory that belonged to the SpookShop totaling $32,000 in wholesale value.

In total, 141 boxes of costumes were seized from Bally's home. Bally told detectives 45 of the boxes contained costumes he bought on Craigslist, but he had no receipts for the costumes, which reportedly were worth $10,000 wholesale.

Detectives also confirmed the key Bally gave them opened the SpookShop warehouse and main store doors and found that the "someweridsin" account listed Bally's current and previous addresses and listed "Natasha Baylor" as the registered user — a name Bally admitted to making up, according to Parks.

Between April 2016 and February 2018, the account had 16,341 items posted on eBay for sale.

Bally was arrested on suspicion of first-degree theft, first-degree possession of stolen property, first-degree trafficking of stolen property and three counts of second-degree burglary. He has been released on personal recognizance, and his arraignment is set for April 27.

As a result of the thefts, the SpookShop "may have to go out of business or file for bankruptcy," according to the police report.

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