Our client, age 29, worked for Cal-Trans as a maintenance lot supervisor. He had worked for Cal-Trans for several years, having family in the department.
He called our office for advice on what to do, as he had just posted bail and was released after being arrested for felony grand theft (Penal Code § 487(a)) after being arrested for selling Cal-Trans tools online. He explained that he had need extra money, so he placed an ad on Offer Up, a website like E Bay where one could offer items for sale and sell items discretely, often using an alias if the items were stolen. He also used Facebook Marketplace for the same purpose.
He explained that several Cal-Trans employees were doing this to make ends meet with work hours being reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions. He knew several other employees were being investigated for the same thing.
What made our client’s case more significant was that as a Cal-Trans employee over ten years earlier (while working there straight out of high school), he had been convicted of felony grand theft for doing the exact same thing in San Luis Obispo Superior Court in 2011. He had the felony later reduced to a misdemeanor and expunged. He then got a job back with Cal-Trans in Los Angeles County.
He was married and with his wife, recently had a baby boy.
He explained that he had offered a few gardening / landscaping tools for sale and when he sold them, for $340, he was arrested. The police report from the arrest specified that the items were two trench shovels, four flathead “square” shovels, three push broom heads, four wooden broom handles, one toolbox, two hard rakes, two pitch forks.
The client was understandably nervous because he had done the exact same thing eleven years ago and suspected he would be looking at state prison for this. The client said he had not made any other sales in the weeks or months earlier that might be discovered.
Greg explained that the real crime was embezzlement (Penal Code § 503), a form of theft, as well as commercial burglary (Penal Code § 459) because the tools were normally kept in a facility and the client had to enter the building to remove the tools for the sale.
Greg explained that the case could be filed as a misdemeanor due to the sale amount being less than $950, although the client explained that the tools were all new and valued at well above $1,000, although their sales price was $340.
The client then retained Greg Hill & Associates and went to the Bellflower Courthouse for his arraignment on the date he promised to appear in court for this. On that day, no case had been filed and we walked out, knowing the case would be filed eventually.
Sure enough, about three months later, our client received a letter from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office advising him that a case had been filed against him and telling his when his arraignment would be.
The client sent the letter to Greg, who read it with great relief. The case number identified in the letter was for a misdemeanor filing. Greg shared this good news with the client.
Greg then went to the Bellflower Courthouse on the client’s behalf for the arraignment. Greg read the police report and learned that our client’s arrest was initiated by a tip from a Cal-Trans worker at the San Bernardino County maintenance yard to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s office, who then notified the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Through their investigation by the Independent Office of Audits and Investigations (I.O.A.I.), they stumbled upon our client’s advertisement on Offer Up, where he offered up quite a few other additional items than just those he eventually sold to the undercover police officer for $340. Our client used his real last name on his account, but changed his first name. Police were able to track him down and identify him easily.
The items he sold on Offer Up were photographed and had a distinctive color spray painted on their handles to identify them as belonging to a specific Cal Trans maintenance yard.
The investigation also reported that our client had reported an overnight break in at the maintenance yard just before his sale, allowing him to report certain items stolen (and coincidentally sold by none other than him).
This report looked worse for our client than expected, however, the District Attorney’s offer remarkably offered DA diversion for our client. Greg could not believe it, as obviously the DA’s office did not know how sophisticated our client’s theft was or his history.
The offer included dismissal in six months if our client completed a twelve-hour theft prevention course and performed 24 hours of community service, obey all laws and pay any restitution, if ordered.
Our client also could not believe his luck and happily accepted this offer.
For more information about theft offenses in general, please click on the following articles: