Created on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 07:51
Twice, she had managed to get children into her vehicle. Both times, she came away with the gold necklaces they were wearing.
St. Paul police arrested Tria Moua, 26, in November, a few weeks after warning citizens about a woman who had befriended people at Hmong establishments for the purpose of stealing jewelry from their children.
The crimes were so unusual that they had no precedent in the caseload handled by Ramsey County District Judge Edward Wilson. And so, on Monday, Wilson, faced with the task of sentencing Moua, asked twice for her to explain herself.
"Poverty" was the motivation, Moua replied through a translator.
Wilson sentenced her to 180 days in the county's correctional facility and to five years of probation. He also ordered Moua to pay $1,031.51 in medical costs for one of the victims and to repay the families for the stolen necklaces.
Moua was arrested after an incident at the Hmong Cultural Center, 995 University Av. W., during which she talked a 10-year-old boy out of a music class and then forced him into her vehicle. She drove around the block twice before ripping a gold chain from his neck and sending him tumbling when he tried to get it back, authorities say.
Three weeks earlier, she tricked an 8-year-old boy into getting into her minivan by saying that they were going to get food for his grandmother, the charges against her state.
Thefts also were reported at Hmong Marketplace, 217 Como Av., and Hmong Village, 1001 Johnson Pkwy., in addition to the cultural center.
Moua, described by her attorney as a quiet woman with no prior record, pledged to get her life back on track.
"I will become a better person," she told the judge.