Monday, December 11, 2017
Public safety

Hillsborough deputies arrest four in lawn equipment thefts

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies have arrested four people they say are responsible for stealing more than $1 million worth of lawn care equipment.

Deputies recovered almost $303,000 worth of equipment, including tractors, weed trimmers, ladders, rakes and a pressure washer.

"The real tragedy here is that the victims in these cases were mostly small-business owners that were uninsured," Sheriff's Maj. Clyde Eisenberg said at a news conference Monday. "Their lives were undoubtedly significantly impacted for a very long time."

In August 2012, detectives recognized a pattern of lawn equipment thefts related to stolen trucks and trailers that were being abandoned along the Interstate 4 corridor, Eisenberg said. The trucks were pulling trailers containing commercial lawn equipment, usually belonging to small-business owners. A majority of the thefts occurred at night in residential areas in Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota counties.

Corinne Shaw and her husband's company, KC Lawn Care in Tarpon Springs, were targeted.

The Shaws woke up one morning this month and found their truck, trailer and equipment stolen.

"Walking out and seeing it gone, you don't know what to do," Shaw said. "You're lost. That's your business. Gone."

Deputies recovered the stolen material after a pursuit. The truck was totaled, but the equipment was salvageable. The Shaws now have their equipment insured.

Deputies arrested four suspects in Hillsborough counties linked to the Shaw theft and more than 50 others: Anthony Jerome Woods, 25; Kenneth Javon Pride, 31; James Julius Flucker III, 27; Frank Edwards Jr., 51.

All four suspects are being held without bail. Eisenberg said authorities hope to arrest a fifth suspect within the week.

The suspects each have a significant criminal history for similar types of offensives, said Diane Croff, chief assistant statewide prosecutor in Tampa.

Woods and Pride are charged with first-degree grand theft and could face up to 30 years in prison, Croff said. Flucker faces a charge of second-degree grand theft, and Edwards was charged with third-degree grand theft, officials said.

The suspects would scout out trailers parked outside homes in other counties, then come back at night and steal them, Eisenberg said.

In November 2012, deputies searched a storage location in Tampa and recovered 17 pieces of equipment from 12 different thefts in addition to 20 pieces from a Dover location. The different thefts were from 2009 to 2012.

About 10 percent of the stolen lawn equipment was returned to its owners, Eisenberg said. As the case moves forward, the sheriff's office will put the other recovered items on display and allow victims to look at the property and see if they can identify theirs.

"This is somebody losing their complete job," Eisenberg said of the theft victims. "They probably owe money on these items, and if they're uninsured, there's no way they can recover them other than starting from scratch again."

Eisenberg encouraged people who own commercial lawn equipment to consider putting an alarm on the trailer or a GPS monitor.

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.

Comments
Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

TAMPA — When her apartment complex caught fire Monday afternoon, Peaches McIntyre grabbed her four children and baby stroller and ran outside.Hours later, she looked at the smoldering building with her 5-year-old autistic son, Choice Underwood, huggi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mother, sons lose everything in fire -- except her daughter’s urn

Mother, sons lose everything in fire -- except her daughter’s urn

ST. PETERSBURG — The day after a fire claimed most of Jahmeshia Jackson’s possessions, the 27-year-old mother returned to the house she and her sons had escaped, trying to salvage what she could. She hoped her washer and dryer still worked. But most ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tree trimmer shocked by power line in Clearwater, authorities say

Tree trimmer shocked by power line in Clearwater, authorities say

CLEARWATER — A 38-year-old tree trimmer is in critical condition after he was shocked by a power line Monday, according to Clearwater Fire & Rescue.Ernest Harlen, of Largo, was on a ladder cutting trees with a pole saw when he was shocked just before...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Father of Seminole Heights victim repairing damage after vandals hit son’s memorial

Father of Seminole Heights victim repairing damage after vandals hit son’s memorial

TAMPA — Weeks after burying his son Anthony Naiboa, one of four people gunned down over the span of 51 days in Seminole Heights, Casimar Naiboa has a new and unwanted ritual.He drives past a makeshift memorial his family made for his son, set up wher...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bomb strapped to man explodes in New York subway; 3 hurt

Bomb strapped to man explodes in New York subway; 3 hurt

NEW YORK — A man inspired by the Islamic State group set off a crude pipe bomb strapped to his body Monday in a crowded subway corridor near Times Square, injuring the man, slightly wounding three others and sending New York commuters fleeing in terr...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lakewood High on lockout after report of weapon on campus

Lakewood High on lockout after report of weapon on campus

Lakewood High in St. Petersburg was placed on lockdown Monday morning following reports of a weapon on campus, but the threat was later downgraded and the school was placed in lockout status instead. St. Petersburg Police spokeswoman Sandra Bentil s...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Firefighters brace for second week of California wildfires

Firefighters brace for second week of California wildfires

LOS ANGELES — As Southern California enters its second week engulfed in flames, fire officials anticipate more growth and danger due to continued strong wind gusts, no rain and decades-old dry vegetation. A powerful flare-up on the western edge of th...
Published: 12/11/17
Reasons elusive as Pinellas EMS demand skyrockets

Reasons elusive as Pinellas EMS demand skyrockets

When the fire chief asked if anyone in the room had fallen before, a few in the gray- and white-haired crowd raised their hands. One woman lost her footing as she was answering the phone. Another saw a palmetto bug, sprayed it with repellent, then s...
Published: 12/11/17
‘What I am detained for?’ Comedian Hannibal Buress arrested in Miami

‘What I am detained for?’ Comedian Hannibal Buress arrested in Miami

Popular comedian Hannibal Buress was arrested Saturday night in Wynwood on a disorderly intoxication charge after an encounter with a police officer.Buress, 34, was booked into a Miami-Dade jail at 1:57 a.m. Sunday and posted bail just before 6 a.m.,...
Published: 12/10/17
Florida Uber driver charged with sexual assault of passenger

Florida Uber driver charged with sexual assault of passenger

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Florida Uber driver is facing charges that he sexually assaulted a drunken passenger.The Orlando Sentinel reports that 38-year-old Jorge Alberto Antunez Quintero was charged this week with sexual battery after an investigation ...
Published: 12/09/17