The Riverton, Wyoming, state legislator who crafted an anti-theft law that allows felony prosecution for repeat shoplifters and thieves is the first prosecutor to charge the law in her county.
Fremont County Assistant Attorney Ember Oakley, who is also a state House delegate representing Riverton, has charged Beatrice Monroe, 48, with two felony, repeat-theft charges.
Passed into law in February and active in July, the new law allows for a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines for accused thieves with four or more prior theft convictions.
The law is a tool to help temper the real problem of serial theft in Fremont County, Oakley told Cowboy State Daily.
"Often, we see large amounts of merchandise pushed out (of a store) without any pretense at paying,” she said. “The cart will be abandoned if the perpetrator suspects detection. Many times, the items will include cosmetics, electronics and/or meat — that we know is used for resale."
Recognizing the town's theft problem, Riverton business owners galvanized this summer, organizing their surveillance footage and sharing tips and concerns with one another in a group called Step Up Riverton.
To Plead Thursday
In Beatrice Monroe's case, she has at least nine prior theft convictions to her name and is now accused of stealing a cartload of goods from the Riverton Walmart.
Monroe's prior convictions include one each from 2012, 2013 and 2014, three from 2016, two from 2018 and one from 2021.
One of these convictions resulted in a suspended 10-day jail sentence, which Oakley characterized as literally nothing.
"We look forward to some actual deterrence for a significant problem that's gone on almost unchecked, until now," she said.
Monroe's case ascended to the felony-level Fremont County District Court last week, and she's scheduled to give her plea in court Thursday. In addition to the two felonies, she also faces two counts of misdemeanor theft, punishable by up to six months in jail and $750 in fines each.
Out We Go
The investigation began Oct. 7, when Riverton Police Department Detective Kingston Cole responded to Walmart for a report of shoplifting.
A manager gave Cole surveillance footage, a written narrative and 18 still images, which allegedly show Beatrice Monroe entering the building, loading up a shopping cart with nearly $200 worth of various jackets, shirts, diapers, laundry soap and other clothes, and walking through the self-checkout area and out without paying.
Riverton's Walmart hires moonlighting sheriff's deputies and police officers to monitor potential and actual thieves.
Oakley charged the new law again Friday against another defendant, Charlene Monroe, who is 35 this year.
Charlene Monroe faces one count of felony repeat theft and has at least eight prior theft convictions on her record: one in 2012, two from 2019, one from 2022 and four from 2023.
Charlene Monroe was implicated Oct. 16, when Riverton Police Department Officer Christian Amos responded to the Riverton Smith's grocery store for a report of a woman pushing out a shopping cart full of items.
Amos caught up to Charlene Monroe near the store and found her in possession of a backpack containing about $156 worth of cosmetics, the case affidavit alleges.
Witnesses said they watched Charlene Monroe load up a shopping cart with about $350 worth of goods, walk out and leave it in the parking lot as well, says the document.
When Amos contacted Charlene Monroe, he found that she had an active warrant for her arrest — for an alleged theft — and he arrested her on the outstanding warrant during the new theft investigation.
Charlene Monroe is set for a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Riverton Circuit Court.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.