Re: What ?
"If you get caught bang to rights because you bought a phone with a stolen card and gave your real name , and are identified by the owner of the card as the guy she gave a lift to when the card was stolen ..."
Based on who has been charged, and who hasn't been that's quite clearly NOT what happened.
Richard is possibly being too subtle here, or perhaps I'm just used to adding the appropriate amount of sarcasm at various points.
My reading of the story is:
1. Alice gives Bob a ride home from the bar.
2. Alice discovers later her debit card is missing.
3. Reported stolen to police, police check purchases.
4. Stolen phone sold to a person who claims his name is Bob. No ID presented.
5. Cops call phone, person answering claims to be Bob, provides Bob date of birth.
6. Cops charge Bob with stealing Alice's phone.
So far, so good.
At this point the police do a more thorough checking of points 4 and 5. Specifically that they can provide evidence that Bob did it. During this process it would have become apparent that there are some flaw(s) in the current theory that Bob did it.*
Since the evidence against Bob is circumstantial, it is entirely possible that a third person, Claire, stole the card, and used Bob's name and DoB. This would require Claire to have access to Alice's purse.
There probably isn't a lot of options for Claire. So the cops start by interviewing the ones with previous convictions for burglary, receiving stolen property, theft; narcotics possession, that sort of thing.
So then the following happens:
7. Cops find evidence that Claire has the card or proceeds from it
8. Cops withdraw charges against Bob
9. Cops file charges against Claire for stealing Alice's card, and for falsely incriminating Bob
Pretty normal day on the job for the cops. You know, doing police work, hence the snarky comment. Since the case against Claire is ongoing, the cops can't comment, which is usually why the journalists like needling them.
I'd guess this is a "Florida Man" (it's from FL, right? Or some other sunshine law state). Normally you only get to see this sort of stuff if it hits court, or if you get to read police reports as part of your job. Since that's pretty much only cops, lawyers, journalists and other functioning alcoholics, most of them would just dismiss this as another day in the shop.
TL&DR: While he was showing her his etchings, a junkie thief stole her purse, then lied about it
* apart from things like alibis, lack of firm ID, motive plays a big part for this. Exactly what Alice and Bobs relationship is counts for a lot. Obviously we don't know, but every person who has driven me home from a bar is not someone I'd steal from. Often I'm paying them....