When a woman in line at a thrift store in Packwood on Saturday realized her phone was missing from her pocket, a family member called the number so they could try and find it.
They heard the phone start ringing, but not from a place they expected.
The ringing was coming from a man who was standing near them in line.
The man, who has since been identified as Mel T. Romero Jr., 39, of Packwood, was charged with first-degree theft in Lewis County Superior Court on Monday for allegedly stealing the phone out of the woman’s pocket while they were in line at the Thrift and Gift on U.S. Highway 12 in Lewis County on Saturday.
When the victim’s phone started ringing on his person on Saturday, Romero reportedly denied having the phone and eventually left the store, followed by a group of witnesses who were in line at the Thrift and Gift, according to court documents. Romero allegedly handed the phone back to its rightful owner before driving off.
One of the witnesses reported the incident to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, which contacted Romero at his residence later that day. When questioned about the theft, Romero allegedly “admitted to taking a phone, saying he thought it was his” but denied owning a phone matching the description of the victim’s, according to court documents. Romero then allegedly said “he had not committed a crime because he gave the phone back,” per court documents.
Romero was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail just after 12:05 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29. He has since been charged with one count each of first-degree theft and third-degree driving with a suspended or revoked license.
Romero was released from the Lewis County Jail on $10,000 unsecured bail on Monday. While on unsecured bail, he is allowed to remain out of custody without posting the bail amount, but will be arrested and have to pay the $10,000 if he violates his conditions of release.
His conditions of release include having no contact with witnesses except for his significant other.
His arraignment hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 2.