Couple Charged with Grand Theft for Stealing Luggage After Asiana Flight Disaster (CA Penal Code 484 and 488)

Ironically, in the wake of the recent mysterious disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished into thin air over the South China Sea, a Richmond couple have been accused of having taken advantage of the Asiana flight disaster this past July.  44-year-old former United Airlines employee (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) and his 32-year-old wife allegedly stole the luggage of passengers whose flights were delayed due to the tragedy.  The couple was caught stealing the items on tape by San Francisco International Airport security cameras and they were seemingly making an attempt to escape justice when they were arrested in the airport, about to board a plane to Hawaii.  In at least one instance, both returned approximately $5,000 in designer clothing to a Pleasanton Nordstrom and absconded with the cash, leading to charges of grand theft and possession of stolen property.

In the state of California, the value of allegedly stolen property determines whether or not an individual is charged with grand theft or petty theft.  If the value of the stolen items is equal to or less than $950, then it is considered petty theft; if it is valued at more than $950, it is considered grand theft (CA Penal Code 484 and 488).  California petty theft charges could land you with a $1,000 fine and/or 6 months in county.  However, if you have been accused of grand theft, the penalties stiffen.  Grand theft is considered what is known as a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that prosecutors may decide to charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on your circumstances.  If you are convicted of a misdemeanor grand theft charge, you may spend up to 1 year in county jail.  However, if you are convicted of a felony grand theft charge, you could be looking at up to 3 years in state prison.  Both face misdemeanor grand theft charges.