Baby formula thieves plead guilty

Selford Velcu, left, Elisabeta Zatreanu, center, and Iolanda Velcu are led away from the podium by a bailiff during a bail hearing before First District Court Judge Thomas Willmore on Wednesday afternoon in Logan. The trio are accused of stealing baby formula from area grocery stores.

LOGAN — Three people suspected of stealing baby formula from local grocery stores have pleaded guilty and will await sentencing next week.

The pleas were given in 1st District Court Monday afternoon while 49-year-old Selford Velcu, 47-year-old Iolandaa Velcu and 22-year-old Elisabeta Zatreanu appeared for a scheduled preliminary hearing.

The three suspects were arrested by police during a traffic stop December 28, when officers noticed a white van, matching a vehicle caught on surveillance cameras driving away after an earlier formula theft from Lee’s Marketplace.

Police believe the three suspects were living inside the van, stealing from stores along the Wasatch Front. They are also believed to have stolen from stores in Idaho and California. The two women would reportedly enter grocery stores, wearing a kangaroo like pouch underneath their skirts. They would place the formula cans inside the pouches and then exit the stores.

Police have recovered 466 cans of formula, valued at more than $8,000. They believe the suspects intended to sell it on the black market.

During Monday’s court appearance, the three defendants waived their rights to a preliminary hearing and then each pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of theft, amended to a third-degree felony. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the remaining misdemeanor charges.

The three are reportedly from Romania and are in the United States illegally. As an additional part of the agreement, prosecutors have agreed to give the three credit for the time they have already served in jail before they will be turned over to immigration agents, where it is expected they will be deported.

Judge Thomas Willmore scheduled the three to appear again in court February 8 for sentencing and a restitution hearing where he will determine how much they will be ordered to repay the stores.

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