Man faces auto theft charges in cart caper

Written by Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat March 08, 2013 07:58 am

A 77-year-old man arrested driving home in a motorized shopping cart, allegedly pilfered from Safeway on Sanguinetti Road, faces a felony auto theft charge. 

The Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office said it will formally charge John Charles Mathews, of Columbia, at his arraignment Wednesday.

A Sonora police officer arrested Mathews on suspicion of possession of stolen property at 1 a.m. Feb. 27.

The officer saw Mathews driving the Safeway cart west on Mono Way and contacted him on the 800 block of the street, about 0.1 mile from the grocery store, police said.

The incident report didn’t say whether Mathews was driving on the roadway or sidewalk, Police Chief Mark Stinson said. 

Mathews told the officer he was trying to drive the cart to his home on the 11400 block of Forest Park Drive, about six miles away, Stinson said.

Mathews told the officer that Safeway had given him the cart — valued at $1,000 — because he has trouble walking, according to police. 

The officer contacted a Safeway representative who said the store had not given Mathews the cart and did not realize it had been taken, police said. 

The cart has since been returned to the store, according to police. 

Mathews was booked into Tuolumne County Jail with bail set at $10,000. He was released on his own recognizance March 1.

His arraignment will be held at 1:15 p.m. in Department 4.