PUEBLO, Col. (KRDO) — The Tenth Judicial District Attorney’s Office reports a recent spike in retail theft and robberies in Pueblo. Attorney Jeff Chostner told 13 Investigates he blames the increase on a change in the state law earlier in 2022 that makes stealing lower-value items only a misdemeanor.
Monday, Chostner said he and his staff hear on the daily from business owners about theft. According to Chostner, these business owners say people know they can steal less than $2,000 in goods and only walk away with a misdemeanor ticket.
In 2013, the District Attorney’s Office began charging shoplifters with felony trespassing. However, in March of 2022, the Misdemeanor Reform law limited their ability to do that.
Deputy District Attorney Erik Walser said too often there is a revolving door on these types of crimes due to little to no punishment being handed down.
“They are people who have been to prison, to jail, who just keep doing this because they know they can get away with it. It’s just money so they know if the court sees it has a property crime, they slap them with a fine , put them on probation that they are not going to do whatever, and maybe they get ten days in jail and they are back out and they still made a profit off of it,” said Walser.
However, Walser said anyone who threatens or shows a weapon while stealing anything, regardless of value, can be charged with felony armed robbery.
One example was two robberies at a Walmart and Lowes in early 2022. Last week, 25-year-old Jacob Villalobos pleaded guilty to the two armed robberies. That’s a minimum of four years in prison.
According to an arrest affidavit, Villalobos told a Walmart employee that he would “kill her” and that he was “strapped” while stealing a nearly $500 piece of jewelry.
In the Lowes robbery, court documents say Villalobos told an employee to “not do anything stupid” as the worker was questioning him for stealing more than $100 in copper wire. According to that arrest affidavit, the employee saw a black handgun in Villalobos’s waistband.
Chostner said Villalobos’s case is a warning to anyone who plans on robbing a business with a weapon. The District Attorney’s Office is asking the judge to hand Villalobos a 24-year sentence in prison for the two armed robberies.
According to court documents, Villalobos has more than half-a-dozen felony convictions already.