Menalto Cleaners owner pleads not guilty to 40 felony counts


Edwin Gary Smith, the owner of Menalto Cleaners, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, Jan. 28, to 40 felony counts stemming from alleged credit card fraud.

Menlo Park police arrested Mr. Smith Jan. 14 after an investigation uncovered more than $678,000 in fraudulent credit card charges to at least 38 customers from December 2011 to October 2014, prosecutors said.

E. Gary Smith (Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac.)
Mr. Smith, a 63-year-old Menlo Park resident, was then charged with felony identity theft, credit card fraud and elder fiduciary abuse — one customer was 79 years old, according to court records.

The current case involves 19 alleged victims who lost more than $350,000 combined. One client lost $70,000 without noticing for 18 months, the San Mateo District Attorney's Office said. Other frauds reportedly occurred outside the three-year statute of limitations.

According to the DA, several customers confronted Mr. Smith about billing errors and he allegedly failed to pay them back as promised. Two patrons went to the police in late 2014.

Represented by attorney Michael Armstrong, Mr. Smith remains in custody on $350,000 bail. A date for a preliminary hearing is expected to be set by the court on Feb. 27.


1 person likes this
Posted by cez
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 29, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Why is there a 3 year statute of limitations on fraud?

1 person likes this
Posted by weird
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 29, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Isn't the statute of limitations calculated from the date of discovery? I guess the victims knew and never said anything for 3 years??

3 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 29, 2015 at 3:27 pm

pogo is a registered user.

In California, the statute of limitations does not begin until the discovery by the aggrieved party. At that point, the injured party has three years to file a case.

The reason the clock starts upon discovery (not commission of the act) is because in many cases the aggrieved party may not discover the fraud right away. However, once discovered, the three year clock starts.

The reason for any statute of limitations is that justice is never served by delays. Witnesses forget, people die, evidence disappears. If you are wronged, you have an obligation to file your charges in a timely fashion.

Like this comment
Posted by Elwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 20, 2015 at 10:52 am

Well the clock starts ticking when one could be expected to reasonably discover such fraud. In the case of a credit card one could reasonably expect this statute of limitations to start after 90 days or however long the credit card company allows you to file a complaint... Terrible system if it allows crooks to get away with fraud and theft. But understandable from a point of prejudicing the accused, lost paperwork, faded memories, etc...

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