Theft, Other Charges for “Beer Run Bandit”

theft charges for beer run bandit

Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

A man who attempted the theft of two 18-packs of beer on New Years Eve was arrested by the Weber County Sheriff’s Office. While the beer may have been for that evening’s celebrations, law enforcement officers don’t believe the man only stole from one store.

Don’t Send This Guy for Beer

Matthew Howell gives a whole new definition to the term “going on a beer run.” According to KSL News, on Dec. 31, Howell, nicknamed the “Beer Run Bandit” by police, entered a Pilot Flying J convenience store, picked up two 18-packs of Bud Light, and left the store without paying for them. Two employees saw the theft take place and followed Howell outside, where he got in a truck and locked the doors.

When one of the employees was noting the rear license plate number, Howell reversed the truck in high speed and nearly ran over the employee. However, after Howell drove away, the Weber County Sheriff’s Office was able to locate the truck in a hotel parking lot in Ogden. The deputy found Howell in one of the rooms with a female and an “extensive amount of beer” which led law enforcement to believe “the man has committed many similar crimes along the northern Wasatch Front.”

Howell was booked on suspicion of theft, aggravated assault, and aggravated robbery.

Theft Defined per Utah Criminal Code

According to Utah Criminal Code 76-4-404, theft is defined as obtaining or exercising unauthorized control over the property of another with a purpose to deprive that person of their property. However, it doesn’t have to be personal, as in taking something from someone directly. In the case of Howell, the “property” belongs to the owners of the gas station, even though they aren’t on the premises at the time of the incident.

Per Utah Criminal Code 76-4-412, theft may be charged as anything from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony depending on how the crime is carried out (as in with or without a weapon) and the property stolen. In Howell’s case, the theft would mostly likely be a class B misdemeanor for a property value less than $500. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Six months in jail is a long time over just two 18-packs of beer. If you or someone you know has been convicted of theft, don’t leave your fate in the hands of a public defender. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will look out for your best interests.

Aggravated Robbery Charges from Convenience Store Holdup

Convenience Store Aggravated Robbert

Photo: Ardfern/Wikimedia Commons

After a convenience store in Cedar City was robbed early Friday, Dec. 26, three suspects were arrested and charged with investigation of aggravated robbery and theft. Police largely attribute the arrests to help from the public.

First Aggravated Robbery Charges but not First Criminal Charges

According to a report from KSL News, on Friday morning at approximately 6:30 a.m., St. George residents Victoria Elizabeth Fanton, 25, and Louis Eleuteri Mcnealsandoval, 32, entered a Texaco in Cedar City. Surveillance footage showed the two walking around the store for minute—most likely casing the location to see if there was anyone else there—before Fanton left the Texaco. Mcnealsandoval then proceeded to approach the clerk and demand money, showing the clerk the handle of a knife hidden in his clothing. The moment he displayed the knife, the crime elevated from simply robbery to aggravated robbery. Mcnealsandoval left the store with an undisclosed amount of cash where a third suspect, Benjamin Michael Wulfenstein, 38, was waiting to drive the three away.

Following tips from the public, police were able to locate the three suspects in Cedar City, and they were booked into the Iron County Jail on Saturday, Dec. 27, on investigation of aggravated robbery and theft. However, both Fanton and Wulfenstein had previous convictions already. Fanton’s charges included assault, retail theft, unlawful detention, and driving without a valid license. Wulfenstein had a charge of use or possession of an unlawful substance from 1995 and is already facing a similar charge this year.

Aggravated Robbery a First Degree Felony

According to the Utah Criminal Code 76-6-302, aggravated robbery occurs when, in the course of committing a robbery, the suspect does one or more of the following:

  • uses or threatens to use a dangerous weapon,
  • causes serious bodily injury on another, or
  • takes or attempts to take an operable motor vehicle

The fact that Mcnealsandoval displayed the knife was considered a “threat to use a dangerous weapon.” Whereas simple robbery is a second degree felony, punishable by one-to-fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, aggravated robbery is considered a first degree felony, punishable by five years to life in prison and a fine of $10,000.

The difference between five years and “life” is a significant span and one that is best left in the hands of a professional. If you or someone you know has been charged with aggravated robbery, don’t rely on a public defender to look out for your best interests. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Utah Restaurant Owner Charged with Sexual Abuse of Employee

restaurant owner sexual abuse

Photo: Adam Jones/Wikimmedia Commons

A restaurant owner in Pleasant Grove was arrested on Friday, Dec. 19, on two counts of sexual abuse and sexual battery for the mistreatment of one of his teen female employees. In addition to the criminal charges, an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement hold was placed on him.

Multiple Instances of Sexual Abuse

According to a report from KSL News, after an incident that finally pushed her over the edge, a 17-year-old employee of Big Daddy’s Pizza contacted the resource officer at her high school, Pleasant Grove High School, to report the sexual abuse. However, this final incident was allegedly part of a pattern of inappropriate behavior.

The Utah County Jail probable cause report states that Gabriel Alejandro Ruz, 43, of Midvale, on several occasions had grabbed the female employee over her clothing and made sexual comments and advances to her.

Events in the case came to a head on Thursday, Dec. 18, when Ruz told the employee he would relieve a $300 debt owed to him by her boyfriend if she would have sex with him. Later that night, Ruz invited the teen into his office to give her a Christmas bonus and then attempted to put his hand up her shirt and undo her pants.

When the teen walked away from him, Ruz allegedly told her not to say anything, presumably in regards to his immigration status, as the girl told the resource officer that she was afraid Ruz would get in trouble by reporting the sexual abuse, “but stated she didn’t believe she deserved to be treated or assaulted in that way.”

When police arrived, Ruz pretended not to be able to speak English, even though he had previously spoken to officers on other occasions where he wasn’t the suspect.

Ruz was booked into the Utah County Jail.

Sexual Abuse not the Same as Rape

According to Utah Criminal Code 76-5-404, sexual abuse occurred in this case because the victim was over 14 years old, and “under circumstances not amounting to rape, object rape, sodomy, or attempted rape or sodomy, the actor [in this case, Ruz] touches the anus, buttocks, or any part of the genitals of another, or touches the breast of a female, or otherwise takes indecent liberties with another”.

In this instance, the sexual abuse would be a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. This is more than enough to ruin a life, especially if the accused is not guilty. Regardless, sexual abuse is not a charge to leave in the hands of a public defender. Be sure to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.