2 women charged by feds for Walgreens robbery, coughing on employees

Federal prosecutors said on Friday that two women have been charged in a robbery at a San Francisco Walgreens, where they coughed on store employees while not wearing masks. 

On April 6, Carmelita Barela, 36, and Rosetta Shabazz, 32, both of San Francisco, allegedly stole $92 in merchandise from the store at Franklin and Post streets. 

The women entered the store with empty bags and when the store manager approached them to offer assistance, they "coughed audibly" and claimed to have 'COVID', according to the U.S. Attorney's Office - Northern California District. 

The manager asked one of the women to leave if they felt ill. The women then both started coughing without covering their mouths and said, "We have COVID."

 According to the complaint, the manager and a security guard did not want to go near the women, who proceeded to fill their bags with merchandise, fearing they could get sick. The women left the store without paying, the complaint says. 

“It is an unfortunate reality that there will be those in our community who try to take advantage of the current pandemic to prey on people’s fear of contracting COVID-19,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson. “While many in our community can remain safe by sheltering in place, store managers and clerks are putting themselves out into the world for our benefit. They don’t deserve to be threatened and robbed. Everyone suffers from a crime like this.”

An FBI special agent vowed to protect front line workers during the pandemic.  

"FBI will simply not tolerate the criminal actions of the few individuals who use fear and intimidation to endanger others,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. 

Both women were arrested on Thursday, April 23. The defendants are charged with robbery affecting interstate commerce and each face up to a maximum sentence of 20 years of prison and a $250,000 fine. 

Shabazz made an initial appearance before a judge on Friday and was released to home confinement. She is scheduled for a bond hearing April 28. Barela will make her first court appearance April 27.