This Week in Starbucks Crime: The Patriotic Thief!

Welcome back to another exciting installment of This Week in Starbucks Crime, in which we catalog the bad acts occurring at Starbucks' 16,000-odd worldwide locations over the past seven days, as well as the week's fallout from prior Starbucks-related misdeeds. The slowness of this news week (come on, Starbucks criminals!) allows us to address a very important subtopic we've been meaning to tackle: Starbucks crimes perpetrated by those wearing shirts with white collars. But first, an Independence Day special!


We begin this week in Massachusetts, where on July 4, a 20-something white guy sporting a black T-shirt with the word "America" written on it walked into the Starbucks on Broadway in the town of Arlington and ordered a drink. While the barista was making it, the man grabbed the tip jar and ran out the store. Police were called to the scene, but were unable to locate the thief, who made off with about $20.

Catching this country-loving criminal will not be easy, but if he acts again, and should he flee in a car next time, there is a blueprint for success. Consider the case of Christopher M. Sheehan, who in November went on something of a Starbucks tip-jar-theft spree in the suburbs of Chicago.

Christopher M. Sheehan, apprehended Starbucks tip-jar thief.

In the space of a few days, the 32-year-old grabbed tip jars from three area Starbucks, making off with about $100. Sheehan was undone by a quick-thinking Starbucks employee who chased him out of the store and wrote down his license-plate number as he fled. Investigators were able to track him down based upon that information, and he turned himself in to authorities in December.


And now we go to the glitz and glamour of New York City. Shortly before we started memorializing the crimes occurring each week at Starbucks, The Wall Street Journal, sister paper to the disgraced and soon-to-be-shuttered News of the World, ran an excellent story about Starbucks as a hotbed for white-collar crime.

That story talked about how Starbucks has replaced ritzier joints like the Plaza Hotel as the meeting spot of choice for white-collar criminals. Among the examples cited:

*Anna Chapman, the sultry, since-deported Russian spy, sent secure transmissions to her handler at the Russian consulate while sitting at a Starbucks at 47th Street and Eighth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

Anna Chapman's secret spy spot: Starbucks.

*Alleged drug dealer Harjinder Brar met twice with an undercover ICE agent in October at a Starbucks in Bellingham, with the intent to sell him $400,000 worth of ecstasy.

Feds set up a sting to buy large quantities of "Obama Ecstasy" at a Bellingham Starbucks.

*Rengan Rajaratnam, brother of insider trader extraordinaire Raj Rajaratnam, met with an associate at a midtown Starbucks days after Raj's arrest in October 2009 to discuss ways of covering their tracks, according to prosecutors.

Raj Rajaratnam's brother plotted a cover-up at Starbucks, prosecutors say.

Why all the white-collar Starbucks crime? The reason is extremely simple. As the WSJ explains, "Starbucks offers the kind of bustling environment that can provide cover for individuals during their interactions."

As these cases show, however, it doesn't mean these white-collar criminals won't get caught.


That's it for this week. Until next time, remember: Starbucks crime isn't just about sexual deviants, petty thieves, and temper-losers. Also, stealing is wrong, even if your shirt has "America" written on it and/or has a white collar.

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