DADE CITY — Jerry Bush told authorities he got the $170,000 from selling his plant nursery business.
He put the money in a tool bag and left it on the rear floorboard of his truck — and then forgot about it, until someone broke into the truck in the early hours of Oct. 30 and stole it all.
Bush, 46, told investigators "he had no idea the money was in the vehicle," said Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
But authorities say an acquaintance knew about it. Lester S. Blain, 30, snagged the bag plus a pair of revolvers from the truck's front console, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Blain, a Brandon resident, is charged with burglary, grand theft of more than $100,000 and grand theft of a firearm. He was being held Wednesday at the county jail in lieu of $65,000, one day after his arrest.
The stolen money has not been recovered, Doll said.
Blain told deputies that Bush gave him the money, saying Bush would seek an insurance claim on the loss. Blain has a conviction for attempted burglary in Hillsborough County a decade ago, court records said.
Doll said the case remains under investigation and no one else has been charged.
The nursery business, My Nursery, remains in Bush's name, according to state records of corporations and county business tax records. Its property remains in Bush's name, too, records said.
There was no one Wednesday afternoon at the nursery at 40806 Messick Road outside Dade City. There was no answer at the business number listed.
Bush's brother answered the phone number that Bush gave to the Sheriff's Office. Randy Bush said he didn't understand why anybody would think this is a story. Not that it's anyone's business anyway, he said.
Jerry Bush did not return phone messages seeking comment.
The night of the theft, sheriff's reports said, Blain called a cab and left in the taxi from Bush's home on Lake Gilbert Circle near Dade City. The cab driver later remembered him carrying the tool bag.
Blain gave one of the guns to his aunt, deputies said. From there, he went car shopping in Seffner that day.
Shellie Herndon, president of The Car Store, remembers Blain for two reasons: He and his family arrived at dealership by cab. And the man he was with paid cash for the two vehicles, a 2003 Ford Explorer and a 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe, both blue.
Total cost: $33,244.78.
She said the paperwork for the vehicles was done in the name of Richard Jordan, who was shopping with Blain. So technically, Herndon noted, she sold the cars to Jordan, who was introduced as Blain's uncle.
Also in the entourage at the car lot that day, as the shoppers presented themselves: Blain's mom and his girlfriend, and a 2-year-old boy. The money, Herndon said, was held inside the mother's purse.
She said people arriving by cab to buy a car is unusual, but not unheard-of: "Honestly, out here in Seffner, nothing surprises me anymore."
And while shoppers rarely bring cold hard cash to the dealership — cashier's checks are more likely — Blain and his family had an explanation. They said someone in the family had just received a settlement. Herndon said that sounded plausible.
"In this economy, I'm not going to quiz you," she said. "I'm going to sell you some cars."
They did all the right paperwork, checking insurance and handling the title. It seemed like a normal sale.
"Then the cops came here asking for details," Herndon said, "and we were like, ooh, so they didn't get a settlement."
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this story. David DeCamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8779. Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.