There’s nothing like seeing “wanted” notices with your face on them, on TV and all over the internet, to get you to freak out just a little. That’s what police in New Mexico say happened to a local woman, suspected of stealing stacks of Sunday newspapers filled with coupons.
As reported here last month, police in Farmington, New Mexico issued a public appeal for help in identifying a woman caught on surveillance video stealing dozens of Sunday newspapers from outside a gas station. The police department posted photos on its Facebook page, and local newspapers and TV stations ran them as well.
So imagine 24-year-old Christina Ratcliff’s surprise when she saw those photos. According to a local defense attorney, as quoted in a police incident report, Ratcliff “came into his law firm freaking out.” She had seen the news reports, and the photos that allegedly showed her in the act of stealing several newspapers.
It all started back in January, when the staff of a local Valero gas station contacted police, after two incidents in which their entire supply of Sunday newspapers disappeared overnight. Surveillance footage showed a woman walking up to the gas station around midnight, after the business had closed, and taking an entire stack of newspapers each time.
According to the police report, the manager “place(d) the newspapers outside of the business for the next day around closing time.” At that very time, employees believed, the suspect was staking out the gas station from a nearby parking lot and waiting for the manager to depart. She then “drove up and loaded the newspapers into her vehicle and left.”
The gas station reported a loss of 27 newspapers, which cost $2 apiece, for a total loss of $54.
Ratcliff allegedly admitted to taking the newspapers, but denied any ill intent. According to her defense attorney’s statement, “she told him the newspapers were sitting on the ground, believed they were trash and were of no value.” In fact, she “was recycling the newspapers and had no criminal intent.”
How nice of her, roaming the streets after midnight in order to collect and dispose of local businesses’ trash!
Yet, enterprising reporters at the Farmington Daily Times – the very newspaper that was being stolen – did a little digging. They found a Facebook page, since deleted, belonging to a Christina Ratcliff. On it were images of some of her shopping hauls. One photo, titled “free”, showed more than a dozen bowls of instant noodles. “Ha ha ok grab some Sunday papers, clip and organize and we can go out next Wednesday lol,” Ratcliff wrote in a comment.
Ratcliff, through her attorney, eventually turned herself in. Police say she admitted taking newspapers from the Valero station three times, but she stuck to her story that she didn’t think it was theft.
She’s been charged with larceny, however, for which the maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.
All for $54 worth of newspapers, a small stockpile of instant noodles – and a whole lot of publicity she probably never bargained for.
Image source: Farmington Police Department
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