PLYMOUTH, MN–When a man who had worked in a Rexton hearing aid manufacturing facility here for 25 years learned that he was going to be laid off in six months, he prepared for unemployment by stealing $1 million worth of hearing aids and related products, such as remote controls and battery chargers. So says the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which has charged 56-year-old Thyvuth Lin of Bloomington, MN, with theft. Also accused of being part of the scheme was a relative of Lin’s, Laden Hot, 20, who did not work for Rexton.
Allegedly, the suspects began selling stolen hearing aids on eBay. Many of the instruments were made for Costco (under the Kirkland label) and for Miracle-Ear.
According to the complaint filed by a Plymouth police investigator with the Hennepin County Attorney, the theft from Rexton was discovered after Costco began getting phone calls from owners of Kirkland hearing aids, usually about warranty issues. When Costco looked up the serial numbers on the instruments, it found they had been previously sent back to Rexton and logged as returns. Since returned hearing aids are not allowed to be sold again, Costco asked the customers how they had acquired them. The customers reported that they had purchased them on eBay.
An investigation by Rexton revealed that someone using the name “Johny20122012” was selling multiple hearing aids on eBay. Products that normally retail for up to $2000 were being sold by “Johny” for only $150 to $500. The serial numbers of some of the devices sold those of hearing aids that had been returned to the manufacturer for credit in July 2012 and were among 40 hearing aids plus chargers and remotes worth $40,000 that the company’s records showed were missing.
According to the complaint filed with the Hennepin County Attorney, Siemens, Rexton’s parent company, ordered a pair of hearing aids from “Johny,” which arrived with a return address of a Minneapolis post office box under the name of Laden Hot, Lin’s alleged accomplice. One of the hearing aids sold to Siemens had no serial number, which indicated that it had been was stolen from the production floor.
Officers with the Bloomington and Plymouth Police Departments obtained a search warrant for Lin and Hot’s home. There they discovered nine Rexton hearing aid product boxes in a closet and numerous hearing aids, batteries, and components in various places They also discovered large amounts of cash in each man’s bedroom. The total value of the recovered property was a little over $1 million.
According to the police, Lin admitted under questioning that he had stolen the hearing aids and components after learning he was going to be laid of. Lin said that since he knew nothing about computers, he has asked Hot to sell the hearing aids on eBay. He stated that Hot knew the hearing aids were stolen.