Judge orders cops to return bounty to burglar

December 13, 2011 6:49:43 PM PST
A San Francisco judge's order to return unclaimed items that were confiscated by police to the burglar they arrested is angering officers and victims.

The judge's order says items not to be returned to the burglar are those already claimed by her victims, as well as about $800 in cash which police seized. But that still means the most prolific burglar police can recall is getting back a lot of stuff including paintings, laptops, tools, designer clothes, a trail bike, even dog collars, and much more.

Police recovered eight truckloads of stolen goods when they arrested Pooja Gandhi and her accomplice Joseph Valdez in March of last year. It is the biggest burglary case veteran police Sgt. Marty Lalor has ever seen.

"I've spoken to all the senior inspectors in charge of burglary and everything else, and there's nobody that's seized this kind of volume of property," he said.

Sgt. Lalor showed ABC7 what is left in the police warehouse, all of it still unclaimed from those eight truckloads.

"We've probably given back about three. So, there's at least four to five truckloads still left that have to go back," he explained.

The unclaimed items would ultimately be auctioned off, the money going into the city's coffers. But in this case, police are packing up all these items to be returned to Ghandi, who was convicted of the burglaries in January. The order was signed by Judge Angela Bradstreet.

"That was the information I was given, and that means all that's stored here is going to have to be returned," Lalor said. "Everything."

If they are truly Ghandi's personal items and not stolen, then she collects suitcases, rides trail bikes, loves expensive paintings (many with the price tag still on), is a baseball fan, and has a foot fetish. The order makes Sgt. Laylor and the dozens of officers who worked on the case hopping mad.

"She should have to prove that she had the legal right to have this property. I believe we have a lot of outstanding victims that didn't claim this property and that this is in fact stolen property," said.

Courtney McSpadden listed all the things Ghandhi is accused of stealing from her Marina apartment. She is rushing to look at pictures in some police binders this week to see if her items are still here. McSpadden questions whether this is justice.

"Now, she's getting out and she's actually profiting from this, I think it's just ridiculous," she told ABC7.

Judge Bradstreet said through the court's spokesperson that she issued the order after Ghandi's attorney and the police legal officer agreed to the deal. The attorney has not returned ABC7's call and the police legal officer is out of town. Ghandi was sentenced to one year and three months in jail. She received credit for time served and is now out.

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