A 40-year-old woman now faces charges for five, not three, armed robberies from an alleged two-month spree throughout the Salt Lake Valley.
Sandra Chotia-Thompson was charged Tuesday in 3rd District Court with two counts of aggravated robbery, one for a hold-up of a Baskin Robbins across from Sugar House Park in December, and another for a yogurt shop robbery at 2153 E. 2100 South in January.
Chotia-Thompson was previously charged with 10 counts, including three robbery charges and an attempted aggravated murder charge. The old charges allege Chotia-Thompson committed holdups at The Grocery Store in Salt Lake City, a Scaddy’s Restaurant and a Family Dollar Store in Murray, crimes that included stealing a vehicle, fleeing from police and shooting at a Murray police officer.
Search warrants obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this year showed police were investigating eight other robberies that Chotia-Thompson and her alleged partner-in-crime, Kelly Fay Simons, 38, were suspected of pulling or attempting to pull.
Tuesday’s charges including two of those heists, though neither mentions Simons, who was shot dead by officers on Jan. 9 near Liberty Park when she allegedly tried to run down an officer with her pickup.
On Dec. 20, Chotia-Thompson walked into the Baskin Robbins and ordered a scoop of ice cream, asked for change for a $10 bill, then pulled a revolver, according to the charges. The suspect ordered the employee to put all the money in the register into a bag, then ran off with both the ice cream and the money.
The robbery of the yogurt shop on Jan. 1, went similarly, according to those charges.
In the Baskin Robbins robbery, Choita-Thompson allegedly wore a fedora, a long grey plaid coat, grey gloves, costume make-up and a black and white wig, according to the charges. During the yogurt shop robbery, police say she sported a green raincoat, black beanie, green and blue scarf and orange gardening gloves.
A Salt Lake City police detective found that the suspect used the same getaway car in both cases. Chotia-Thompson’s mother told the police that she gave her daughter that car.
The modus operandi rings similar to the other crimes in Chotia-Thompson and Simons’ alleged spree. The women would wear wigs, masks, oversized trench coats, gloves and hats to conceal their identities as they committed the heists, the warrants state. Because of this, reports varied: Some witnesses described the robbers as young men, others as old men, others still as women in costume.
Upon searching a trailer the women shared, police found three wigs and a black ski mask, documents say. In the tan sedan that Chotia-Thompson is accused of driving during most of the spree, police reportedly found bullet slugs, a gun holster, bank receipts, checkbooks, ski masks, jackets, gloves, hats, binoculars, wigs, bolt cutters, needles, a syringe and jackets.
Besides the two robberies Chotia-Thompson was charged with on Tuesday, police say similar heists were executed at a McDonald’s at 1533 S. State St., a US Bank branch at 2243 E. 2100 South, Alchemy Coffee at 390 E. 1700 South, Red Mango yogurt shop at 1511 E. 2100 South, Movies 10 in Sugar House and Sconecutter at 2040 S. State St.
If convicted on any one of most of her charges, including the two new ones, Chotia-Thompson could spend up to life in prison. She has been charged with first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and three counts of aggravated robbery, second-degree felony attempted aggravated robbery, third-degree felony attempted theft and tampering with evidence, and misdemeanor failure to respond to an officer and failure to stop at an officer’s command.
The defense has said plea negotiations are ongoing.
She is scheduled to make her next court appearance on Wednesday morning in connection with most of her charges. She will make her first appearance for the new charges on Monday.
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