Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fun with Passport Photos Part Four: Un-Smooth Criminals

RIVERSIDE - In what police are calling a perfect storm of criminal incompetence, Betty Corona and Eric Clueless have been captured after a string of botched robberies in San Bernardino, Highland, and Moreno Valley.  
The criminals first struck a CVS Pharmacy on July 28th, at the corner of Elm and Spruce in Highland.  Wearing matching doctors masks, shower caps, and Sleepy Panda eye masks with holes cut through them, the pair threatened violence if the clerk didn’t open the register.  The clerk said he could not open the register without a sale.  The man asked for Trident Cinnamon gum, but the CVS had none in stock.  The pair looked at each-other, shrugged, and walked out.
They tried again two days later just a few blocks away at a Whole Foods on Broadwater, and then Friday at a Starbucks on Woodland Avenue in Moreno Valley, then Sunday at another CVS on fifth ave in Highland.  Each time they wore the same doctors masks, shower caps, and Sleepy Panda eye masks.  
In each botched robbery, the man stuck his hand beneath his shirt to make it look like he had a gun, police said.  He would demand cash while the woman held a canvas tote bag open.  They never lasted more than a few seconds before fleeing the scene.

"They were really giggly," one clerk, who asked not to be identified, said.

"It was weird how impatient they were," another clerk remarked.  "It was like, 'Money now, please.'  Then 'Screw this, I'm leaving.'  I'm like, 'Give me a chance to open the register,' you know?"
Cops were certain it was Betty Corona and Eric Clueless, an Arizona couple with outstanding warrants in that state for non-violent crimes, because the pair would often call each-other by name during their failed attempts.
The couple finally made off with some loot from the San Bernardino Starbucks about noon on Monday, this time wearing full halloween tiger masks.  They loaded up a canvas tote with coffee bags and left without paying.  

"I thought it was some kind of fraternity prank," Barista Skip Redford said.  "The cops got really bent out of shape about it."
Police released this surveillance photograph of the couple standing outside the San Bernardino Starbucks, waiting for it to open:

Police speculate that Betty Corona is standing on a box in this photo.

On Monday, August 8th, around 6 p.m., Corona and Clueless approached a Citizens Bank counter inside a grocery store on 7th ave in Highland.  Clueless gave the teller a note written on a ripped paper plate that said, "We are robbing you.  Now."
The teller told them that the branch was closing and closed the security screen door.  The pair looked at each-other, shrugged, and walked out.

"In retrospect maybe I was putting myself in danger," the teller said," but it didn't feel like it at the time.  They were so clueless.  I thought it was some kind of performance art."
Their reign of haplessness finally came to an end when they entered a mom and pop gas station in Riverside on Wednesday, August 10th.  Hoping to pass the time waiting to be alone with the clerk as naturally as possible, Clueless asked for a job application.  He then proceeded to fill out the application with his real name, cell phone number, and his address back in Salt River, AZ. 
When the other customers left, Corona and Clueless donned their tiger masks and managed to convince owner John Henning to give up the cash in his drawer.  Henning, however, was reluctant to give Betty Corona the pack of Parliament lights she also requested.  Henning told Corona she didn’t look old enough to buy tobacco.
Corona removed her mask and assured Henning that she was 27, more than old enough to legally purchase tobacco.  Henning remained unconvinced.
Finally, Corona pulled out her drivers license to prove that she was of age.  Henning thanked her and handed the card back, along with the Parliament lights.
Between Clueless’s job application and Corona’s ID, Henning had more than enough information to confirm what police had suspected all along; their bumbling bandits were drug and alcohol imbibing, amateur porn filming, avid readers from Arizona.
“They’ve had one successful robbery out of eight attempts,” Officer Bernard Chucklebuckle said, "and that was only because Heller wanted to see that ID.   Well, two successes I guess, if you count the coffee.  Either way, we’re not talking Bonnie and Clyde here."

Nevertheless, police were determined to use the information they had to finally bring Corona and Clueless to justice.  Lucky for them, Corona had left her tiger mask behind at Heller's gas station.

John Henning called the cell number on Eric Clueless's application.  Henning told Clueless they had left a mask behind.  The couple promptly returned for the mask, and police immediately arrested them.   

"They're harmless," Chucklebuckle said.  "Still, we need to lock them up before they manage to accumulate any more jail time.  You want your tax money spent feeding these two wastes of bone structure?  I sure don't.” 
Under California law, the couple face three (3), six (6), or nine (9) years for first-degree robbery for each offense.  They can be conviction mens rea for the 7 botched attempts, but the prosecutors face a bigger problem.   As the couple never used any kind of weapon, prosecutors need to prove that the felonious taking of personal property was "accomplished by means of force or fear."  In each instance, no weapon was used, and none of the clerks were afraid.

As Chucklebuckle prepared to drive off, he had to ask; why did Eric Clueless fill out an application with his real name?  Why did Betty Corona remove her mask and hand Heller her drivers license?  And why, after a robbery had finally managed to net them some cash, did they return to the crime scene?

"Need a job," Clueless mumbled.  "And, you know. . . masks are expensive."

Undercover officer Dusty Grimes leads Betty Corona to a squad car shortly after her arrest.

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