Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 10am


Suspected serial burglar foiled by his hankering for coffee

Old-fashioned police work and a taste for chain-store coffee appear to have solved the case of Los Altos" serial burglaries.

Police arrested 37-year-old Sunnyvale resident Augustus Steven Mosley on Dec. 16 in San Jose after reportedly tracking his use of a stolen Starbucks gift card. Use of the gift card, which had been registered by its Los Altos owner prior to a burglary, was traceable to a San Jose Starbucks with a video surveillance system. Police tracked down the employee who had taken the order from the stolen gift card — for an iced drink — and the barista was able to pick Mosley out of a stack of mug shots, according to Detective Paul Epley.

Mosley is suspected to be the prolific burglar believed to have raided 80 houses on the Peninsula over the last six months, including up to 22 in Los Altos. He has been charged with three burglaries in Los Altos, one in Cupertino and one in Sunnyvale, as well as with possession of stolen property. The investigation is ongoing, according to Epley.

Epley reported that some stolen property has been recovered from Mosley"s home, but that due to the nature of the burglaries ­— which largely focused on credit cards and cash — not many residents could expect a return of their goods.

The burglar"s modus operandi appears to have been to hit multiple private residences, often more than one on the same block, in the same night. The suspect is believed to have entered homes through unlocked doors or windows between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. as their occupants slept within, making off with purses, wallets and portable electronics and leaving few tracks. Police had originally suspected that a number of people were working in tandem to carry out the burglaries.

Authorities in Sunnyvale, Mountain View and unincorporated Santa Clara County became involved in Los Altos" investigation as the extent of the crime spree became better understood this autumn.

According to Epley, Mosley was taken into custody in San Jose with the assistance of the San Jose Police Department. Epley reported that Mosley"s name first came to the department"s notice as they performed the routine police work of combing case evidence for patterns and noticed one name popping up. Once they had his name, they were able to take his picture to the barista for identification. Police had originally speculated that multiple people were working in concert to carry out the burglaries.

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