Fulton woman, 52, charged with robbery, armed violence, drug possession

Police: Caught cheating at Sterling Walmart self-checkout, she threatened worker

Lennette M. Varner in January 2024

MORRISON – A Fulton woman whom police said got caught cheating in the self-checkout lane at the Sterling Walmart could be facing at least 15 years in prison if convicted of an alleged ensuing robbery and weapons and drug charges.

Lennette M. Varner, 51, formerly of Clinton, Iowa, had a gun and some meth in her purse when she threatened a loss prevention employee, Sterling police said.

Varner is charged with armed violence, aggravated robbery, possession of fewer than 5 grams of meth and possession of fewer than 15 grams of cocaine.

According to Deputy Chief Pat Bartel:

On Saturday, Jan. 6, Varner was abusing self-checkout, either by under-ringing or failing to ring up her items – cases of soft drinks, food and some paper towels, which all told rang up at $84.39.

A Walmart loss prevention employee followed Varner to her car and confronted her while she was loading her groceries.

Varner told the employee, essentially, to get lost and that she had a gun. The employee backed off, took a picture of Varner’s vehicle and called Sterling police, who sent out an alert to surrounding law enforcement agencies.

Varner was arrested shortly thereafter in Fulton by Illinois State Police, Bartel said.

According to the charging document, filed Monday in Whiteside County court, Varner had a Smith & Wesson 442 .38 Special in her purse, which was in her vehicle when the employee was threatened, plus the meth and cocaine.

According to Illinois statutes, a person commits armed violence if he or she commits certain felonies while armed with a dangerous weapon.

Convictions carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, up to 30 years.

The concurrent felony Varner is accused of is possession of methamphetamine, which in this case is punishable by two to five years in prison.

Aggravated robbery occurs when a person robs another “while indicating verbally or by his or her actions to the victim that he or she is presently armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon ...,” according to Illinois statutes.

It is punishable by four to 15 years.

The cocaine charge carries a sentence of one to four years, and a fine of up to $25,000.

Varner, who according to online court records, has no criminal history in Lee or Whiteside counties and no felony criminal history in Clinton County, Iowa, lost her petition for pretrial release Monday and was ordered held in Whiteside County jail.

Her next hearing is Jan. 22.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.