ST. LOUIS – A man allegedly stole more than $64,000 in cash from Walmart stores nationwide and targeted several St. Louis-area stores in a sleight-of-hand scheme.

Mohsen Akbari, 37, has been charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property in the investigation.

Federal authorities arrested Akbari on Sept. 5. He pleaded not guilty to criminal charges on Monday.

According to a federal indictment, Akbari entered the United States last March from South Korea on a visitor visa. He reportedly traveled across the country, entered various retail stores, and used sleight-of-hand techniques to steal cash.

As part of the scheme, Akbari would make a small purchase, then claim that he and his family collect United States currency, typically $100 bills. He asked cashiers to show him bills in the cash register, so he could examine them, and then surreptitiously place some of the bills into his sleeve or pocket, per his indictment.

Akbari is accused of stealing about $33,700 from 30 different Walmart stores in nine states from March 23 to June 8, 2023. He reportedly deposited money in a United States bank account he opened and then wired funds to his bank accounts in Canada.

The indictment claims that Akbari stole hundreds or thousands in cash from Walmart stores in St. Peters, O’Fallon, Warrenton, Eureka and Arnold in Missouri. He also stole cash from nine other states, including Illinois, in the scheme.

If convicted, Akbari could face up to 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. Homeland Security investigators teamed up with the Eureka and Arnold police departments in the investigation.