A man who was arrested for stealing expensive Lego sets from several stores on the Peninsula claimed he committed the crimes because he was a victim of the San Bruno pipeline explosion, according to media reports.
Donald Michael Morales, 45, on Thursday pleaded no contest to three felony burglary charges stemming from a string of thefts from Target stores in San Bruno, San Mateo, Redwood City and Daly City.
According to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, from Feb. 20 to April 14, Morales entered the stores and would remove the bar code stickers from an expensive "Star Wars" Lego set, place the sticker on a cheaper Lego set and then purchase the item at the cheaper price.
Morales was caught on March 4 at the Redwood City Target store and arrested.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that he apparently told his lawyer he led the crime spree because his house had been destroyed in the San Bruno fire:
His attorney, Jeff Jackson, said Morales had told him his house was among those burned in the 2010 explosion of a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. natural-gas pipeline in San Bruno. Jackson hasn't confirmed that independently, but said Morales' mother told him it was true.
"It caused a downward spiral," Jackson said. "He was really affected by that, was having emotional issues, lost his job, fell on hard times. That doesn't mean you should turn to crime, but he had his whole world turned upside down."
Property records confirm that Morales lived at a home in the Crestmoor neighborhood, where a number of homes were either destroyed or damaged in the fire. However, city records show that his home wasn't one of the properties damaged.
Jackson left a voicemail after being contacted but couldn't be reached for further comment.
Morales is expected back in court Aug. 3 for sentencing, and he is expected to spend no more than a year in jail. He is currently out of custody on his own recognizance.