Bridgeport man granted probation in Westport Panera Bread robbery scheme

Exterior, Stamford Courthouse, Sept. 20, 2019.

Exterior, Stamford Courthouse, Sept. 20, 2019.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

STAMFORD — A Bridgeport man accused of conspiring to steal from the Panera Bread he worked at in Westport was granted a pretrial probation program which could see his charges dropped.

Judge Gary White granted Rochelle Smith, 25, accelerated rehabilitation at Stamford Superior Court Tuesday, which will see Smith placed on one-year probation.

Smith told White on Tuesday that he had “made a big mistake” back in October 2019 when he and friend put a plan in motion to try and steal a wallet containing $7,000 that had been left at the Post Road East eatery.

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Valdes said Smith and his friend Horace Rawlings, 33, had come up with a scheme where Smith called the eatery one day impersonating the woman who had forgotten the wallet.

But, when this gambit failed, police said Rawlings tried unsuccessfully to rob the store with a box cutter.

“I wish I had never picked up the phone that day,” Smith told White.

In January 2020, Smith was arrested on charges of third-degree conspiracy to commit larceny and third-degree criminal attempt to commit larceny.

Smith will have those charges dropped, though, if he doesn’t commit any crimes before his next court date on March 29, 2022.

Rawlings, his accomplice, pleaded guilty to criminal attempt to commit first-degree robbery in November. He was sentenced to a five-year suspended sentence and three years probation.