Our client was 22 years old and unemployed, living at home with his single mom. He had graduated from high school, but then decided not to proceed onto college quite yet. He had worked a variety of jobs through temporary agencies, but when COVID-19 “hit,” he was laid off.
He and two of his friends came upon a scheme that apparently others had followed to make money: steal coffee mugs, tumblers and hard plastic cups from Starbucks and then exchange the items for store credit at Target. The young men then used the store credit to buy I-Phones at $350 each in Target and sell them for $300 via word of mouth.
Our client and his friends would enter a Starbucks and, using a large bag, place several mugs and tumblers in the bag and then casually walk out without paying for the items. They went to Starbucks all over Los Angeles County and generally exchanged the items all at the Pasadena Target. Apparently, the Pasadena Target “didn’t ask any questions.”
At one Starbucks in the Norwalk area, our client ran into trouble. As he was walking out of the Starbucks with a large bag filled with stolen Starbucks items, an employee followed him and his friend to their car, telling them to stop. The employee began yelling at our client and creating quite a scene. She then tried to grad the large bag from our client and our client pushed her away, causing her to fall on the ground. He then threw a stolen Starbucks metal tumbler at her and hit her on the side of her face and bouncing off her hand, causing it to bleed. Another employee photographed our client and his friend leaving in their car and the police were called. Our clients left in their car at high speed. Allegedly, our client yelled at the Starbucks employee, telling her not to call the police.
Police quickly found our client based on the registered owner address associated with the license plate. The registered owner of the car was our client’s mom.
Our client was arrested for the Estes robbery (a shoplifting that turns into a physical struggle when a store representative tries to physically restrain a thief and the thief fights to escape) and, perhaps in an attempt to ingratiate himself with police, confessed in full. This was quite unwise for him, but ultimately, did help.
Our client explained his scheme of stealing Starbucks items to take to Target to get in-store credit to buy I-Phones. He estimated he had stolen approximately $1,000 worth of $20 mugs and other small items from Starbucks to sell three I-Phones from Target.
After being released, he hired an attorney, but that attorney was not able to negotiate a plea bargain without the client serving one year in county jail. The client’s mom was very troubled by the thought of her son spending any time in jail and fired that attorney, hiring Greg Hill & Associates instead.
Greg then substituted in as counsel of record. The complaint against our client alleged one count of robbery, Penal Code § 211 (for which the client faced a maximum of five years in state prison), one count of assault with a deadly weapon, Penal Code § 245(a)(1) (for which the client faced four years in state prison), one count of threatening a witness, Penal Code § 136.1(b)(1) (for which the client faced four years in state prison), one count of threatening a witness, a violation of Penal Code § 136.1(b)(1) (for which he faced three years in state prison), one count of attempted shoplifting, Penal Code §§ 664 / 459.5 (for which he faced 180 days in county jail) and four counts of shoplifting, Penal Code § 459.5 (for which he faced 180 days in county jail for each count). Because most of the counts involved separate events, the sentences would run consecutive, not concurrent, so the client faced over ten years in state prison.
Over the course of several court appearances, Greg was able to negotiate a resolution wherein the client would plea no contest to one count of assault with a deadly weapon, Penal Code § 245(a)(1), and be placed on two years of formal probation with no jail, but an obligation to perform 75 days of community labor, pay restitution to Starbucks and stay away from all Starbucks and Targets for two years.
The client and his mother were very relieved with this resolution. Moreover, if the client did successfully complete probation, the 245(a)(1) charge was a wobbler, meaning the client could request that it be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. The conviction also would be eligible for expungement upon successful completion of probation.
For more information about an Estes robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and shoplifting, please click on the following articles: