OLDSMAR — A Safety Harbor landlord accused of stealing electricity and water at a group of Clearwater apartments was arrested Tuesday and charged with grand theft, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.
Lawrence Ayers, 42, was arrested about 2:30 p.m. at St. Clair and Arch avenues in Oldsmar, about a block away from another of his apartment buildings. That building, like the Clearwater complex, was disconnected from utilities and condemned in the last month after deputies said they found signs of tampering in the outdoor power meters.
A patrol deputy saw Ayers' vehicle near the Oldsmar apartments and circled around to follow him as he pulled away, a Sheriff's Office release said. Before his arrest, Ayers rolled down his window and asked to report a stolen grill.
The grand theft charge is the most recent step in an ongoing investigation at the apartments at 15652, 15664, 15676 and 15750 Westminster Ave. Charges relating to the suspected Oldsmar theft at 3616 Meriden Ave. have been referred to the State Attorney's Office, but they are not part of the arrest, sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said.
About two dozen people, who had been paying $125 a week for rent and utilities, were displaced from Ayers' apartments when crews disconnected power late last month. At the scene of the Oldsmar eviction on June 19, Ayers said tenants were responsible for utilities, although he charged residents for their bills.
Drew Harwell can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4170.