A couple was arrested this week on suspicion of taking a purse -- from the Merced County Courthouse.
Israel Mendoza, 42, and his 39-year-old wife, Maria, were taken into custody Tuesday after detectives went to their residence in the 6000 block of California Avenue in Winton, where they recovered the purse, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.
MacKenzie said the incident was captured on a court surveillance camera Monday. The victim, a 24-year-old woman, was sitting in the front row waiting for her turn to appear before a judge.
When she was called to appear, she left her purse on the bench. Meanwhile, the suspects were also sitting in the same row. When the victim completed her court business, she left the courtroom and forgot her purse, MacKenzie said.
Noticing that the victim had left without her purse, Maria Mendoza slid down the bench and began rummaging through it. As Maria Mendoza appeared before the judge on separate business, her husband also looked into the purse, authorities said.
When Maria Mendoza was done with court, her husband got up with the purse and handed it to her, MacKenzie said. Maria Mendoza slung the purse over her shoulder and walked out, as if it belonged to her, according to deputies.
Before leaving the courthouse, the couple at no time tried to return the purse or notify a bailiff that the owner had left it, MacKenzie said. After the lost purse was reported, however, detectives reviewed the surveillance footage and spotted the suspects.
Warrants were issued for the arrest of the couple, and they were booked into Merced County Jail on suspicion of misappropriation of found property and conspiracy to commit a crime. They are being held in lieu of $20,000 bail.
MacKenzie said no credit cards so far have been used from the victim's purse.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.