NEW PORT RICHEY — Chad Keck was leaving the courthouse Thursday after a traffic court hearing when he ran into trouble. It was a sheriff's detective waiting with handcuffs and an arrest warrant.
It took authorities a while to piece together their case against Keck, 20, of Safety Harbor for the jewelry theft at a Piercing Pagoda booth at Gulf View Square mall in March. Once they had all their evidence, they waited for him to come to them.
Deputies occasionally arrest people when they come to the courthouse for other scheduled business, sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said. It saves them time in tracking down the suspect, he said, and it averts a potentially hostile showdown at the suspect's house.
"That's probably one of the best things you can get, when a person comes in and is in court," Tobin said.
A witness back in March saw Keck take off with a tray of gold chain necklaces valued at more than $17,000, according to a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report.
A store employee had noticed Keck walking around the booth with another person. While helping two other customers, the employee placed the tray of jewelry next to the cash register to open a display case. When she looked up, all four people and the tray of necklaces were gone.
The owner of a nearby jewelry booth, Jewells Time, saw Keck walking with the necklaces, the report said. Keck waved at him — a gesture caught on that booth's surveillance video — and then left the mall. The owner followed Keck, who drove away in a white pickup.
Investigators later traced the license plate number to Keck, who told them he had driven the car to the mall but was not involved in the robbery. He was not charged at the time.
In May, Keck was arrested for failing to appear in court on a charge of allowing an unauthorized person to drive his car. He was back in court on Thursday.
By then, investigators had viewed the surveillance video at Jewells Time, and that store's owner picked Keck's photo out of a group of pictures. The Sheriff's Office secured a warrant for his arrest. He was charged with grand theft and violating the Florida pawnbroker act.
Keck was released Friday from the Land O'Lakes jail on $10,000 bail. No one else is suspected to have been involved in the robbery, Tobin said.
Nomaan Merchant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6244.