If you have a prior record then you probably are not eligible for deferred prosecution. As far as getting a public defender, I am not sure about the local procedures, but typically you would need to apply for that at your first court date. These sorts of cases are tricky--you have a decent explanation, but it really depends on the disposition of the judge whether they believe that you were really in the dark about the thefts.
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Hire an attorney.
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The best thing For you to do is to speak to a local experienced attorney in your area. They will be able to advise you on what the best approach given your circumstances. Good Luck