Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Con men target older St. Pete residents in serial thefts

ST. PETERSBURG — The young man said he wanted to trim branches and overgrown shrubs in Mary Porter's backyard. Then, he said he wanted to spray for spiders.

But all he really wanted was her jewelry.

Before the 84-year-old St. Petersburg woman realized it, the man and his partner were running out her front door carrying her gold wedding band and an antique platinum diamond ring worth about $29,000. They snatched the items right off her hands.

"It was well planned out," Porter said of the Wednesday theft at her home in the 8200 block of 33rd Avenue N. "I guess I wasn't smart enough to pick up on it."

Police say she and her husband, Archie, 95, were the latest victims of an elaborate con targeting older residents. In each of the seven reported thefts so far this year, the same men have approached homeowners claiming to be doing yard work, pest control or some other task before fleeing with rings, bracelets and other valuables.

The situation seemed fishy from the start, Porter said. While she ventured with the younger man to her back yard, the older man made his way inside the house and talked to her husband. She thinks the men might have been talking to each other on portable radios.

In the back yard, the younger man made a remark about spiders lingering in the brush. Porter saw no spiders.

He began to spray a liquid on the ground. Then he sprayed Porter's hand. It felt like water, she said, but he hustled her inside, insisting they needed milk to neutralize the "acid."

In her kitchen, the younger man went for the refrigerator, poured milk into a bowl and placed her hands in it. He told her to take off her rings. When she did, he scooped them up. An instant later, both men were gone.

Porter called police and learned she wasn't the first victim.

Five of the thefts have happened within the same square mile, in the area between 22nd Avenue N and 34th Avenue N, police said. The cons escalated in March when police learned the duo was impersonating city workers.

The younger man is described as about 30 years old, between 5 feet 6 and 5 feet 8, with a medium build, black hair and a slight mustache. The older man is described as in his late 40s to early 50s, 5 feet 6 to 5 feet 8, with a heavy build. The spoke Spanish to each other, Porter said.

They drove away in a gray or silver minivan, possibly a Chrysler or a Honda, with tinted windows and no rims, police said.

Porter said she hopes she gets her rings back. She also hopes to see the men in court.

"I'd tell them to go out and get a job and quit doing this to people," she said. "It just makes me very sad."

Police want to hear from anyone else who might have been approached by the men. Anyone with information can call Detective Karl Sauer at (727) 893-4904.

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

LARGO — A Pinellas sheriff’s child protective investigator has been fired and could face criminal charges after an investigation found she made a child custody recommendation to a judge as a favor to a friend.Jayne Johnson, who has worked for the She...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men who ran from deputies and shot a dog were captured after a brief pursuit Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.They ditched a stolen car, ran away on foot, crossed through several yards and then tr...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Tampa bicyclist, 52, dies after being rear-ended by vehicle; no charges

TAMPA — A 52-year-old man riding a bicycle was killed early Friday when he was struck from behind by a car in Seminole Heights, according to Tampa police.The incident took place at about 12:15 a.m. Wayne Kersh, 52, was riding his bicycle in the eastb...
Updated: 8 hours ago
After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

TAMPA — A 46-year-old man was arrested Friday and accused of setting fire to a vacant Ybor City bathhouse hit by arson at least two other times earlier this year.Two Tampa police officers spotted smoke from the vacant building at 1512 E Eighth Ave. a...
Updated: 10 hours ago

FHP: Overturned pick-up slowed traffic on northbound Howard Frankland

ST. PETERSBURG — A pick-up truck towing a car onto the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge overturned and crashed on the shoulder, causing back-ups for motorists trying to get to Tampa, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident was reported...
Updated: 10 hours ago
New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

The Miami Beach-based Animal Recovery Mission has released a video from its undercover abuse investigation at a Central Florida dairy farmThe graphic video, with disturbing images of cows cruelly being beaten, speared, stabbed and burned, was shot by...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Missing Child Alert canceled for Port St. Lucie girl, 17

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 17-year-old Port St. Lucie girl who was last seen on Thursday.The case involving Heaven Flores has been resolved, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Published: 12/15/17

Hudson pedestrian killed while crossing U.S. 19

HUDSON — A Hudson man was killed Thursday night while crossing U.S. 19.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 59-year-old Gerald Berube was crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. 19 north of Stahl Drive around 6:40 p.m. when he walked into the path ...
Published: 12/15/17
Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

TAMPA — Police are seeking a "person of interest" who they believe has information about a Dec. 3 drive-by shooting that killed a 22-year-old man.Police are searching for Anan Motilal, 25. He stands about 5-foot-10 and weighs 180 pounds. He may have ...
Published: 12/14/17

Pinellas Park officer stuns middle school student with Taser

PINELLAS PARK — A school resource officer stunned a middle school student with a Taser while trying to break up a fight between her and another female student on Thursday, police said.Neither the Pinellas Park officer nor the students involved in the...
Published: 12/14/17