HOUSTON – The COVID-19 crisis is encouraging more people to shop online, which is opening up new opportunities for alleged package thieves.
Case in point, Humberto Saenz, 37. Investigators describe him as a prolific porch pirate.
Saenz already had a long arrest record before he was picked up last month. New charges accuse him of stealing packages left at 19 homes in the Heights, West University, Rice Military and Midtown. According to prosecutors, he was caught on camera at 17 of those homes.
One of the targeted homes belongs to Dan Monroe.
“I looked on my video over there, and in middle of the day saw him get out of this car, grab it and go about his business,” Monroe said.
His home security camera recorded the image of a man, matching Saenz’s description, walking up to the front door and walking off with a $250 pair of shoes.
And Monroe said his neighbor’s home video cameras show that same man spent days in the neighborhood going from house to house.
“It wasn’t a minor thing he did,” Monroe said. “Because he had to steal thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of people’s stuff.”
In the last session of the legislature, lawmakers beefed up the statute governing porch thefts, making it a state jail felony to steal ten or more items. And it appears that Saenz is about to become the first person in Texas to be prosecuted under that statute, which could send him to prison for years.
“It allows us to charge the case in terms of severity based on the number of victims rather than the money value of the packages stolen,” said William Cowardin, Harris County District Attorney assistant.
The new law combined with Saenz’s previous arrests, enhances the sentence he could face if he’s found guilty, a couple of years in state jail to up to 10 years in state prison.