Sometimes the company you keep can get you into trouble, and Maria Grijalva learned that the hard way. When her friend snatched someone's purse and she drove him from the scene, she became his partner in crime.
GRIJALVA, 18, lives at 15348 James Monroe Hwy. in Leesburg; but at the time of her offenses, she was staying at 14914 Lady Madonna Court in Centreville’s London Towne community. And last week in Fairfax County Circuit Court, she pleaded guilty to two counts of larceny and one count of credit-card fraud.
In an Aug. 21 affidavit, police Det. T.W. Cook presented details of Aug. 10 and Aug. 14 purse-snatchings. The first one occurred near the 6000 block of Callaway Court in Centre Ridge. A woman reported that a Hispanic male grabbed her purse while she was walking. She said a Hispanic female drove him away in an SUV.
Cook wrote that one of the victim's credit cards was immediately used at the Sheetz gas station in Chantilly, at the Loudoun County line, and surveillance video photographed the people using it. Other credit cards belonging to the victim were also used that day to purchase several items at the Dulles Town Center mall in Loudoun County.
The second incident happened in Fair Oaks. Police responded to 12255 Fair Lakes Parkway for a report of a robbery in front of the Kaiser Permanente building. The stolen purse was found the next day in Loudoun County. But the victim discovered her Macy’s credit card had been used for several purchases before she could cancel it.
HOWEVER, surveillance cameras again captured the pilfered credit card being used at Macy's in Fair Oaks Mall. Police said the suspects seen on that video were the same ones observed on the Sheetz gas station video, and that the SUV they drove was the same vehicle used in the Aug. 10 offense in Centreville.
On Aug. 22, police charged Grijalva with robbery, larceny, forgery and conspiracy to take identity. And in November, the grand jury indicted her on two counts of grand larceny and one count of credit-card fraud.
Last Tuesday, Dec. 11, in Circuit Court, she entered Alford pleas of guilt. She did not admit she was guilty, but acknowledged that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict her of the crimes with which she's accused.
And indeed, as Judge Jane Roush accepted her pleas, she said she found the evidence against Grijalva "overwhelming." She then made sure the teenager understood that Alford pleas are "a variance of a guilty plea."
Roush also informed Grijalva that credit-card fraud is punishable by a possible maximum of five years in prison, and grand larceny from the person carries a penalty of as much as 20 years. The judge further noted that no plea agreement has been made in this case.
"Do you understand that, by pleading guilty, you're giving up your right to appeal the decision of the court?" asked Roush. "Yes," replied Grijalva.
"Believing that you've entered your pleas freely and voluntarily — and understand the nature of the charges against you — I accept your pleas of guilty and find you guilty as charged," said Roush. She then set sentencing for Feb. 15 and allowed Grijalva to remain free on bond until then.
Afterward, defense attorney Clinton Middleton said his client insisted she didn't know before the first incident what the co-defendant — a childhood friend she hadn't seen in years — was going to do. "And she absolutely knew he wouldn't do it again because she made him promise not to do 'anything stupid like that, ever again' and put her in that type of situation," said Middleton. "But then he did it again."