SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A San Francisco woman who stole items from a Walgreens store while coughing and claiming she had COVID-19 during the early days of the pandemic was convicted on a federal robbery charge on Wednesday.
According to acting Northern California U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds’ office, a federal jury found 36-year-old Carmelita Barela guilty of robbery affecting interstate commerce, an offense that has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Court documents said Barela and another woman entered a Walgreens near Civic Center on April 6, 2020, as the Bay Area was in the midst of the first shelter-in-place order. The women were not wearing masks at the time.
According to prosecutors, when the store manager offered assistance, the other woman began to cough without covering her month and was told to leave. Barela and the other woman then both coughed while taking merchandise.
After the manager told both of the women to leave the store, the pair responded by saying “We have COVID.” The pair then left the store without paying for the items, prosecutors said.
“The spread of COVID-19 has forced almost all of us to make sacrifices and to rely on each other to maintain our safety and good health,” Hinds said in a statement. “Unfortunately, some people have tried to use the crisis to intimidate essential workers and to commit crimes.”
Barela remains in custody, prosecutors said. She is scheduled to be sentenced on August 4.