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A slew of stolen credit cards was recovered in Berkeley last week by a police officer who recognized a six-time felon from a booking photograph and decided to search him.

The Alameda County district attorney’s office has charged 43-year-old Sean Alston with 11 felony counts of grand theft and one felony count of receiving stolen credit cards. Alston’s arrest record dates back to 1998 and he has served time in prison as a result of his convictions.

Last week, on Sept. 16, a Berkeley Police officer spotted Alston sitting in a Ford Focus on Byron Street near Bancroft Way, and recognized him from a Berkeley Police booking photo. The officer, Benjamin Phelps, wrote in a document related to Alston’s arrest that he found four apparently stolen bank cards in Alston’s pants pocket, and more stolen cards in a bag in the vehicle’s back seat. The officer also said he found two Visa cards on the floor in the vehicle. 

(Alston was subject to search due to his status as a federal probationer, wrote Phelps.)

Phelps noted that Alston “took full responsibility for all the cards in his possession and in the car,” and that he “provided a written statement taking responsibility for unlawfully possessing other peoples’ access cards.”

According to court documents, Alston had previously been convicted of six felonies in Alameda and Contra Costa counties dating back more than a decade: possession of a controlled substance in 1998; two vehicle theft incidents in 2004; forgery and second-degree commercial burglary in 2006; and receiving stolen property in 2007. Three of the convictions resulted in prison terms, and the others resulted in probation.

Alston remains in custody with a bail of $175,000 at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. Alston, who is a chef according to Alameda County sheriff’s department records, is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Sept. 27 at 9 a.m. at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...