A man who claims he ended up scamming Target out of pricey Lego sets after losing his home in the deadly San Bruno gas explosion now faces less than a year in jail for the theft.
Just a month after he was charged with using doctored bar codes to give himself big discounts on $140 Star Wars Millennium Falcon kits, Donald Michael Morales pleaded no contest to three felony counts of commercial burglary. He faces up to four months in jail, said his attorney Jeff Jackson.
Between February 20 and April 14, when he was caught in Redwood City, Morales, 45, placed fake bar codes that left him paying about $16 for the expensive Lego sets at Target stores in cities like San Bruno and San Mateo. He sold them on eBay at full price, prosecutors said, until a sharp eyed clerk caught on and alerted security guards.
Jackson said his client claims to have lost his home in the Pacific Gas & Electric gas line explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people and destroyed 38 houses. His life, according to his attorney, then spun out of control and he made some choices he regrets.
"He suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety," said Jackson, who added he had not confirmed his clients claim. "Not that that makes it OK to steal, of course."
Morales' case, which involved 14 thefts, was the second Lego scam caper to surface in a week in May. A Silicon Valley executive at global software giant SAP was accused of doing the same thing in the South Bay. Prosecutors said the cases were strikingly similar, but appeared to be unrelated.
Jackson said prosecutors dropped another 12 felony counts against his client, who says he has the $1,500 to reimburse Target for the stolen items.
Morales is out of jail on his own recognizance and is due back in San Mateo County Superior Court for sentencing August 3.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/Melvinreport.