Groceries worth $61 cost $250

Woman fined after being found guilty of shoplifting

Too many conflicting explanations led Magistrate Nova Hall to find a woman guilty of stealing $61.48 worth of groceries from Foster’s Food Fair, Airport Road, in June this year. 

After explaining her verdict the week before Christmas, she fined Emerlinda Velasquez de Wright $250 or 25 days imprisonment in lieu of payment. 

Wright initially denied leaving the store with a cart that had two bags of unpaid-for groceries in it. CCTV supported the loss prevention officer, who said she approached Wright outside the supermarket. 

Wright then said she went outside to look for her friend, who had gone to her car because her baby was fussing. Then she said her friend went to the car to get money to pay for the groceries. 

She denied telling a cashier that she had already paid for the groceries when she went to the register to pay for a drink and bakery item. But another employee heard her tell the cashier she had paid. 

Wright blamed the inconsistent explanations on a language barrier, as her native tongue is Spanish. The court provided an interpreter during trial. 

The magistrate indicated Wright’s witness did not support her. Wright told the court she had asked her friend to pay for her groceries before they went shopping and her friend agreed. 

However, the friend told the court that Wright had come to her home to visit and when she was driving Wright home, Wright asked to stop at the supermarket to pick up a few items. The friend decided to pick up a few things also and asked Wright if she could pay. Her evidence was that Wright did not say yes or no, but smiled. Shortly afterward, the friend discovered she did not have her wallet and she left to go home. Then she decided to pick up her child from school and, while driving back to Foster’s, she received a phone call from Wright asking her to pay for the groceries. 

By that time, Wright had been accompanied to the manager’s office, where a Spanish-speaking employee had been called to assist. 

The magistrate found as a fact that there was no discussion of the friend paying for the groceries before the two women went to the supermarket. She also found as fact that Wright did tell the cashier the goods in the cart had been paid for, which contradicted her statement to the manager. The action of leaving the store with the goods established the intention of taking them without payment. 

During trial, Crown Counsel Marilyn Brandt had asked Wright why she did not leave the cart inside the store when she went outside to look for her friend. Wright replied that her child was in the cart and she could not leave the child alone. Ms Brandt wondered why she did not take the child from the cart.