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Alayo Guilty to Grand Larceny

A Centreville man pleaded guilty in court last week to grand larceny. He is Oscar Edward Alayo, 32, of 14401 Four Chimney Drive in Centreville's Newgate community.

Before he did, though, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Leslie Alden made sure he was entering his plea freely and voluntarily and because he was, indeed, guilty. She also advised him that he could possibly be sentenced to anywhere from one to 20 years in prison for this offense.

"DO YOU understand that, by pleading guilty today — even if you're unhappy with the decision of this court — you may have given up your right to an appeal?" asked Alden. "Yes, Your Honor," replied Alayo.

The judge noted that there's no plea agreement between the attorneys in this case, with regard to sentencing. Then Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Marc Birnbaum described what the prosecution's case would have been, had it gone to trial.

He said that, on Sept. 7, 2006, a woman was shopping in the Giant Foods store on Stone Road in Centreville. And while she was at the store's pharmacy counter, her purse was left unattended in her cart.

"When she had her back turned, this defendant removed her wallet from her purse — containing, among other things, her VISA credit card," said Birnbaum. "A short time later, this card was used to purchase items including beer and food at another grocery store nearby."

Police Det. Elizabeth Cummings, who specializes in financial crimes, explained further details in an Oct. 23, 2006 affidavit for a warrant to search Alayo's townhouse.

She wrote that Giant's store-surveillance video from Sept. 7 showed a man reaching into the victim's purse and removing her wallet. She also stated that her Chase Visa credit card

"was fraudulently used for purchases totaling over $200," and one of them was at the Shopper's Food Warehouse in Centreville.

During the course of the investigation, wrote Cummings, two other police officers "positively identified" Alayo as the man in the video seen swiping the woman's wallet. Police arrested him in October and charged him with credit-card theft.

ON FEB. 28 in General District Court, his charge was amended to grand larceny, and the Commonwealth agreed not to press charges in connection with Alayo's use of the credit card. He was then indicted March 19 by the grand jury and pleaded guilty last Monday, March 26, in Circuit Court.

Birnbaum said that, after being read his Miranda rights, pursuant to his arrest, Alayo "indicated he was in a group that stole the wallet, but that he did so at the others' behest." And defense attorney Todd Zinicola told Judge Alden that one of those suspects is still at large.

She then accepted Alayo's plea and found him guilty. She ordered a pre-sentencing report be done and set his sentencing for May 18.