Crime

Alleged yoga class burglar arrested in Berkeley

yoga1

Police say Christopher D. Newton stole the unattended wallets of participants at various yoga classes in Berkeley. Photo: Augusto Mia Battaglia

A man authorities say is responsible for a series of burglaries over the past year in Berkeley at four yoga studios, a capoeira gym and a restaurant has been charged with six felony commercial burglary counts by the Alameda County district attorney’s office.

According to court documents, Berkeley police say 20-year-old Christopher D. Newton stole unattended wallets, often while participants took classes.

Police said Newton would then use the pilfered credit cards to make purchases before victims knew to cancel the cards.

According to court papers, two burglaries took place in Berkeley in February: at 7th Heaven Yoga, 2820 Seventh St., and Sweet Basil Thai, 1736 Solano Ave. Four others took place in Berkeley in November: at Corepower Yoga, 811 University Ave.; Capoeira Arts Foundation, 1901 San Pablo Ave.; Yoga Tree, 2807 Telegraph Ave.; and Namaste Yoga (which previously had been called 7th Heaven).

Police said Newton “would sometimes pose as a prospective student often providing applications with false names on them to gain access to the studios.”

As part of the investigation, police used a phone number belonging to Newton which they said he’d used on one of those applications. Witnesses also identified him, via a photo line-up, as having been seen at at least one of the studios before the thefts.

Berkeley Police officer Scott Castle prepared a warrant for Newton’s arrest. Then, on Dec. 15, according to court papers, police arrested Newton as he was leaving another yoga studio, at 2800 Adeline St., just before 12:30 p.m.

According to a report completed by Castle, “Newton waived his Miranda Rights and admitted multiple burglaries.”

Newton remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail and is scheduled to enter a plea Jan. 9 at 9 a.m. at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland in Dept. 112. His bail has been set at $120,000.

Related:
Residents fight off burglar during home invasion attempt (01.02.14)
Biggest Berkeley crime stories of 2013 (12.31.13)
2 felons with assault rifle charged in Berkeley burglary (12.10.13)
Berkeley Police arrest 2 after burglary-in-progress call (11.26.13)

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  • EricPanzer

    Clearly, this was just an act of religious expression. By liberating these yoga practitioners from their worldly possessions, Mr. Newton was only attempting to educate them about yoga’s origins in asceticism.

  • DisGuested

    This is what happens when people are allowed access to healing modalities under false names. Yoga studios should make people register with Disqus and provide photo ID to take classes.

    Anyway, it’s sad that this area of social trust is not being eroded. It’s like someone robbing from the offering plate at a church.

  • DisGuested

    Whoops:

    area of social trust is not being eroded => is being eroded

  • Chris J

    Having been to many such places where one leaves items somewhat unattended while doing yoga or dance, I would rarely bring valuables with me to leave unattended. Car keys or bike lock key only. My sense if trust has long been eroded.