Police don't want burglar to get unclaimed loot

December 15, 2011 6:59:00 PM PST
For victims of a prolific burglar, this may be the last chance to claim their stolen property. If not, San Francisco police have been ordered by a judge to give it back to the thief who may have stolen it. Sound strange? A lot of people think so, but that's apparently the law.

Several of the victims ABC7 profiled in stories about the burglaries will get a chance to see if their stolen goods are among property seized by police because there's a stay on the judge's order to return property to the convicted burglar. Police attorneys also plan to file another motion Friday in court that may enable other victims to claim their items.

"If you have a police report documenting the incident, the date and time this occurred and the specific item that was taken, please come forward," San Francisco Police Ofc. Carlos Manfredi said.

It's another chance for victims of convicted burglar Pooja Ghandi to claim their possessions which were stolen.

Police confiscated eight truckloads, some 2,000 items, when they arrested Ghandi and her accomplice Joseph Valdez in March of last year. So far, 39 people have claimed their belongings, but three to four truck loads of property remain unclaimed.

What normally happens to unclaimed items?

"We hold the seized property for more than 18 months, then at that point we normally donate the property, we auction it, or we destroy the property," Manfredi said.

But in this case, all of those unclaimed items will be returned to the prolific burglar.

Judge Angela Bradstreet signed the order in January after approving a request by Ghandi's lawyer. Police say they fought it tooth and nail, but their hands were tied.

"They fought it 11 times; they were trying to prove in fact that these items were in fact stolen," Manfredi said. "At the end of the day, she's still considered innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof has to lie within us."

Investigators who cracked the big case say justice has gone awry. The burden of proof is on the wrong side.

"She should have to prove that she had the legal right to have this property," San Francisco Police Sgt. Marty Lalor said.

But such is the law.

What police attorneys hope to do now is further delay Ghandi from taking the property.

They are going to court Friday to file a motion to reconsider the order, giving burglary victims more time to claim their goods.

"We're just waiting at this moment to see whether the victims can identify any of their property," Manfredi said.

Ghandi served her sentence of a year and a couple of months. She's an illegal immigrant from Canada and is now awaiting deportation.

Those who want to contact police about this case can call the special investigations team at Northern Station at 415-614-3400.

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