Former gas station janitor denied clean getaway

An alleged thieving ex-janitor hoped to clean house at Peninsula gas stations, but messed up, authorities said.

The suspect charged with four brazen robberies at Shell stations wasn’t hard to track down, police said, since the alleged crook used to be a janitor at the stations and failed to conceal his identity during the heists.

Shell station managers told cops they recognized Marlon Arbulu, 27, of San Mateo, on surveillance camera footage captured during two of four robberies at three stations between Nov. 28 and Thursday, police said.

Arbulu allegedly robbed a gas station on Peninsula Avenue in San Mateo twice — on Nov. 28 and then on Dec. 12, police said. In the second heist, he complained to the clerk that the $200 he nabbed during the first robbery wasn’t enough, San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Arbulu’s other alleged hits included a Shell station in San Carlos on Tuesday and another in San Bruno Thursday, Wagstaffe said. Arbulu was arrested at a San Bruno motel later Thursday, he said.

An arrest warrant was issued the day before the San Bruno heist, after gas station managers examined surveillance video from the Dec. 12 heist. The surveillance cameras were not functioning during the Nov. 28 robbery but were subsequently fixed, authorities said.

Station managers say surveillance cameras also showed Arbulu during Tuesday’s robbery in San Carlos, Wagstaffe said.

During the alleged robberies, Arbulu either passed a note to the teller or simulated a gun while demanding cash, police said. He is also accused of stealing cell phones from clerks in three of the robberies, which has led to additional charges, Wagstaffe said.

Arbulu had been out on bail for a felony car theft charge in September. He is now in custody on $200,000 bail, Wagstaffe said.

Arbulu pleaded not guilty to the robbery charges on Friday.

The case was set for preliminary hearing on Jan. 3, Wagstaffe said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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