Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Public safety

Clearwater police make one toilet-pipe arrest, investigate other cases

CLEARWATER — Authorities believe they've flushed out a thief who pilfered thousands of dollars worth of toilet fixtures from nearly a half-dozen public restrooms around North Pinellas.

Last week, the hardware was missing from the Dunedin and downtown Clearwater libraries, the Dunedin Historical Museum and two Clearwater restaurants — McDonald's at 1860 Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Checkers at 1972 Gulf-to-Bay.

The culprit shut off water to the commodes before removing the flush levers and pipes connecting the bowls to the wall, authorities said.

On Wednesday, Clearwater police arrested Herman Luis Acosta, 43, at his Clearwater home on one count of felony grand theft in connection with the downtown library case.

They and Pinellas County Sheriff's Office investigators are reviewing surveillance video to determine whether he or others are behind the other thefts.

Media outlets across the country have increasingly reported on toilet part thefts.

"I was very happy that they've been able to identify and arrest someone so quickly," said Clearwater libraries director Barbara Pickell. She said repairing the two commodes on the main library's first floor took a $1,500 chunk out of the facility's budget.

"Everything we spend on replacing something that's vandalized or stolen takes a toll on replacing something else . . . like books, or staff time," Pickell said.

According to a police affidavit, security video captured Acosta entering the Clearwater library's men's restroom with a backpack and exiting about 10 minutes later. He sold the plumbing fixtures about four hours later for scrap metal at a Pinellas Park metal recycling business, the report said.

Dunedin library director Phyllis Gorshe said her building was hit the day before the Clearwater library. Patrons reported to employees that the valves were missing from all three stalls in the men's restroom. The urinals were not affected.

The city spent $75 apiece replacing the parts at the Dunedin library as well as at the historical museum, where city staffers say one toilet at the city-owned building was damaged.

Comparing the size of the valves to a small tea cup and estimating the weight of the accompanying piping at no more than 11/2 pounds, Dunedin city engineer Tom Burke said the thief "could've done almost anything to get more money."

"Scrap metal runs under $2 a pound," said Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts.

Pinellas sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said Thursday that deputies would forward the Dunedin case to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office to determine whether Acosta should be charged with misdemeanor petit theft.

An arrest report says Acosta was also arrested recently by Largo police in connection with a similar theft in that jurisdiction. A spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking details.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments

FDLE: Pasco couple scammed elderly employer out of $480,000

TAMPA — A Pasco County couple face dozens of charges after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they stole more than $480,000 from their elderly employer.Chet Alan Ragsdale, 45, was arrested Monday on 28 counts of grand theft, 25 counts of ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

THE VILLAGES — Four sinkholes have opened up in a fast-growing retirement community in Florida, including one in front of a home that was abandoned months ago because of an earlier sinkhole. A spokeswoman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office says t...
Published: 05/21/18
Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

A Gulf Breeze man walked around a neighborhood naked while carrying a bottle of cooking oil, Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s deputies said.The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a homeowner at 8:30 p.m. on May 17 saying home security...
Published: 05/21/18
A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man is accused of attacking a deaf couple and their service dog while they were travelling on a plane headed toward Orlando.The incident happened as Matthew Silvay, 30, and Hazel Ramirez, 21, were on Frontier Flight 1752 as it left Colorado Springs...
Published: 05/21/18
Pasco sheriff: Man, 23, sexually battered 10-year-old girl

Pasco sheriff: Man, 23, sexually battered 10-year-old girl

PORT RICHEY — A 23-year-old man was arrested Friday on a charge of sexual battery under the age of 12, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Elias Barreiro sexually battered a 10-year-old girl last year, according to the arrest report. He wa...
Published: 05/21/18
Lava from Kilauea volcano enters ocean, creates toxic cloud

Lava from Kilauea volcano enters ocean, creates toxic cloud

PAHOA, Hawaii — White plumes of acid and extremely fine shards of glass billowed into the sky over Hawaii as molten rock from Kilauea volcano poured into the ocean, creating yet another hazard from an eruption that began more than two weeks ago. Auth...
Published: 05/21/18
Traffic lights restored at Pinellas Park intersection

Traffic lights restored at Pinellas Park intersection

PINELLAS PARK — Traffic lights have been restored at the intersection of 66th Street N and Park Boulevard, police said. About 5:45 p.m., Pinellas Park Police announced the outage. 
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18
Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

SANTA FE, Texas — A 17-year-old student looking forward to celebrating his family's new swimming pool and a substitute teacher whose home frequently hosted family gatherings were among the 10 people killed in a mass shooting at a Texas high sch...
Published: 05/20/18
Burglary suspect jumps into Hillsborough canal to escape deputies, officials say

Burglary suspect jumps into Hillsborough canal to escape deputies, officials say

TAMPA — After a botched burglary, a fleeing suspect jumped into a canal to escape deputies Saturday afternoon, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The person has not yet been identified. The suspect tried to break into a business on...
Published: 05/19/18
Cuba: 110 died in plane crash, 3 survivors ‘critical’

Cuba: 110 died in plane crash, 3 survivors ‘critical’

HAVANA — The only three survivors of Cuba’s worst aviation disaster in three decades were clinging to life Saturday, a day after their passenger jet crashed in a fireball in Havana’s rural outskirts with 113 people on board. In the first official dea...
Published: 05/19/18