Berkeley's thriving yoga community can ujjayi a little easier today: a man who cops say was responsible for a string of burglaries at four yoga studios, a capoeira gym, and a restaurant in the East Bay has been charged with six felonies for swiping wallets and using stolen credit cards to make purchases while his neighbors flowed through their vinyasas and relaxed into their shavasanas.
According to the Alameda County District Attorney's office, 20-year-old Christopher D. Newton is the man who shattered the fragile sense of community and tested those "we are not responsible for lost or stolen belongings" signs at 7th Heaven Yoga, Corepower Yoga, Yoga Tree and Namaste Yoga in Berkeley, as well as the Capoeira Arts Foundation and Sweet Basil Thai. The burglaries began last February and Newton's grift was simple: he would enter each studio posing as a new student and offer a fake name to slip into class. Once he was inside, he would steal unattended wallets and use the stolen cards to make purchases before his fellow students even knew they were gone.
But Newton's technique was sloppy: he was brought down by Berkeley Police because he once used his real phone number while signing in. Witnesses recalled seeing him at one of the studios and he was finally arrested last month on December 15th while leaving yet another yoga studio in Berkeley. Newton admitted to multiple burglaries and is currently being held on $120,000 bail until his court date later this week. Until then, we imagine he'll be working on his yoga practice from the comfort of his cell in Santa Rita Jail.