Thursday, February 22, 2018
Public safety

Pair accused of stealing baby formula for resale through Craigslist

LARGO — They hit grocery stores across Pinellas County over the course of a month, police said, in search of valuable white powder with a strong market for sale over the Internet: baby formula. They stole thousands of dollars' worth. Then they got caught in the act.

Last Saturday, just after 7 p.m., Largo police responded to a call from the Publix at 10411 Ulmerton Road. A woman dressed in black had tried to leave the store with reusable shopping bags full of baby formula she hadn't paid for, according to an arrest report. A Publix employee recognized the woman from a previous attempted theft, the report said, and approached her. The woman left the bags at the front of the store, then walked into the bathroom.

Jessica B. Gordon, 28, of Brandon, had tried to steal 13 cans of formula, police said. She wasn't working alone. In the parking lot, Brian L. Oliver had been waiting in their getaway car, according to police. In the trunk, police found more than 75 cans of formula, estimated to be worth about $2,500.

Oliver, 31, of Brandon, told police he and Gordon had been stealing infant formula from stores across Pinellas for a month, then selling it online, according to arrest reports. Largo police found several postings on Craigslist between May 15 and June 29 advertising baby formula for sale with Oliver's and Gordon's cell phone numbers.

The cans in the trunk represented both the couple's haul for Saturday, Oliver told police, and formula stolen earlier that they planned to sell. A few hours before, Oliver walked into the Publix at 5000 East Bay Drive and left with 36 cans of formula estimated to be worth about $900 in reusable shopping bags, according to an arrest report. That time, Gordon had waited in the car.

Gordon faces two felony charges of grand theft, one felony charge of dealing in stolen property and one misdemeanor charge of retail theft. Oliver faces felony charges of grand theft and dealing in stolen property and one misdemeanor charge of retail theft.

Baby formula is a popular target for theft, leading some retailers to put cans behind the counter or in places highly visible to employees. Retail associations frequently cite formula among America's most shoplifted goods, along with designer jeans and over-the-counter medication.

"It seems like an easy target for theft," said Largo Lt. Mike Loux, "and it's a high-dollar return when people sell it."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Man rescued after boat swept away, capsizes in Little Manatee River

Man rescued after boat swept away, capsizes in Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — A man was rescued early Thursday morning after Hillsborough County deputies say his boat was swept away by a strong tide and capsized in the Little Manatee River.According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, a 911 call was received ...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Two male students arrested for threatening their schools; no weapons found

Two male students arrested for threatening their schools; no weapons found

Two male students were arrested Wednesday on charges that they made threats against their respective schools, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The threats were not credible and neither took steps to carry out those threats, deput...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

TAMPA — Former Florida state Rep. Robert Wallace ended his life Monday night by jumping from a Dale Mabry Highway overpass, records show. He was 65.At least one witness saw Wallace plunge 40 to 50 feet onto Gunn Highway, according to a Hillsborough C...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Two male students arrested for threatening their schools; no weapons found

Two male students were arrested Wednesday on charges that they made threats against their respective schools, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The threats were not credible and neither took steps to carry out those threats, deput...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Man arrested after 3-year-old girl in his care found wandering streets

Man arrested after 3-year-old girl in his care found wandering streets

PORT RICHEY — A 59-year-old man was arrested Tuesday evening after a 3-year-old girl in his care was found wandering outside alone, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said they were sent to Larry Dixon’s residence at 8710 Bench D...
Published: 02/21/18
Largo police investigating fatal hit-and-run crash on East Bay Drive

Largo police investigating fatal hit-and-run crash on East Bay Drive

LARGO — Police have identified the pedestrian in a fatal hit-and-run Wednesday morning.According to Largo police, 75-year-old John William English Jr. was struck and killed by a car about 6 a.m. at Wertz Drive. The crash shut down the eastbound lanes...
Published: 02/21/18
Parents of Seminole Heights killings suspect processed at jail for house arrest

Parents of Seminole Heights killings suspect processed at jail for house arrest

TAMPA — The parents of a man accused in last year’s Seminole Heights killings reported to a Hillsborough County jail Wednesday morning to be outfitted with the GPS monitors they’ll wear during their six months of house arrest.Rosita Donaldson was boo...
Published: 02/21/18
Police: Teen, 17, shoots Pinellas Park man who confronted him after car break-in

Police: Teen, 17, shoots Pinellas Park man who confronted him after car break-in

PINELLAS PARK — A Pinellas Park teen faces a charge of attempted murder after police say he stole a gun from an unlocked vehicle and shot the owner as he tried to give chase.Police say Brandon Paul Roman, 17, faces charges including attempted murder,...
Published: 02/21/18
Pedestrian killed by hit-and-run driver in Tampa

Pedestrian killed by hit-and-run driver in Tampa

TAMPA — A pedestrian was fatally struck by a hit-and-run vehicle early Wednesday morning.Police say the pedestrian died at the scene after being struck in the 6900 block of E Adamo Drive.Eastbound lanes are closed at S Maydell Drive, according to the...
Published: 02/21/18
Her brother was a Hillsborough firefighter. Then he overdosed. What she hopes you learn from her hero.

Her brother was a Hillsborough firefighter. Then he overdosed. What she hopes you learn from her hero.

Editor’s note: This essay was written for the Tampa Bay Times by Dina Perez, the sister of Nick Perez, a Hillsborough County Fire Rescue employee who died in 2016 at age 27.You see firefighters and first responders on TV and they look like superheroe...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/21/18