A Romanian man accused of smuggling a nearly $8,000 bottle of scotch from a Jackson liquor store in his pants crotch was arrested after a pregnant police officer found him soliciting on city streets three weeks later.
Marian Firu, 50, faces a felony theft charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines if convicted.
On Nov. 2, Jackson Police Department officers responded to a report that someone had stolen a nearly $8,000 bottle of 35-year-old Dalmore scotch from The Liquor Store, Lt. Russ Ruschill, the department’s communications director, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.
Officer Paul Jacobson viewed security camera footage showing “a person that really, really resembles Firu” removing the bottle from the shelf and stuffing it into the crotch area of his pants, said Ruschill.
But police didn’t learn Firu’s name until later.
A Jackson police officer on modified duty spotted Firu as he solicited money in Jackson on Nov. 21, Ruschill said.
The officer, whom Ruschill did not identify by name, has been working in investigations but not contacting suspects because she is pregnant. She called Jacobson, who arrested Firu “without incident.”
Firu had been panhandling for a while, Ruschill noted.
“(He) had been actively standing on several of our street corners around the 1st of November,” Ruschill said, adding that Firu held a sign indicating that he had a 7-year-old child with cancer. Witnesses reportedly saw Firu accepting money from people.
It has not yet been determined whether Firu has a 7-year-old with cancer, but Ruschill said that is not a priority finding for the felony theft case.
Ruschill said he’s not sure if Firu speaks English.
Police used a Romanian translator to advise him of his Miranda rights, but Firu would not answer any questions, the Lieutenant said.
“It was odd,” said Ruschill. “He never said, ‘I’d like an attorney,’ he just never responded to questions.”
Panhandling was generally illegal in the city of Jackson until a little more than a year ago, Ruschill said. Because there were constitutional issues with forbidding the practice, the city changed its ordinance recently to require a permit for overt solicitation of funds on public property.
If Firu hadn’t been the suspected scotch thief, police likely would have educated him on the policy and offered him a permit application, Ruschill said.
Firu was not cited for soliciting on public property, said Ruschill, adding that, “Normally, we wouldn’t arrest people for shoplifting a bottle of liquor. However, an $8,000 bottle of liquor makes it a felony theft.”