BROOKSVILLE — As the Massey Pest Control employee walked through his customers' homes, authorities say, he searched for much more than just bugs.
Edward Peterson, 43, is accused of stealing thousands of dollars in gold jewelry from at least one customer, but Hernando County sheriff's deputies suspect he may have victimized others, dating back to December 2010.
On June 18, investigators say, the man stole about $5,000 in jewelry from a client's bedroom. The woman just recently noticed it was missing and realized Peterson had been the only person with access to her valuables.
She then contacted a supervisor at Massey, who confronted Peterson.
Peterson denied the allegation, a report said, but agreed to pay the woman back $5,000. On Sept. 1, Peterson gave his boss $1,000 as restitution.
Soon after, the supervisor contacted the Sheriff's Office. Deputies say they interviewed Peterson, and he admitted stealing jewelry from the woman's bedroom while he sprayed the house for pests. Peterson told investigators he sold what he'd taken for $2,500 to a gold buyer on Mariner Boulevard, who Peterson said didn't give him a receipt.
Investigators also discovered that Peterson had pawned several pieces of jewelry between December 2010 and April 2011, a report said. Authorities say he told them most of what he sold was taken from customers' homes, though he couldn't recall from which customers he stole which items. The supervisor at Massey later gave deputies a list of people Peterson had serviced in that period.
Peterson, who no longer works for Massey, was arrested on a charge of grand theft and taken to the Hernando County Detention Center. He later posted $2,000 bail and was released.
"The Hernando County Sheriff's Office will be going the extra mile in an attempt to locate additional victims who may not even realize at this point that they have been victimized," Sheriff Al Nienhuis said. "If we are also able to get any sentimental items back to the rightful owners, that would be an additional victory for us and the victims."
If any Massey clients think they may have been victimized, investigators asked that they contact Detective Mike Little at (352) 754-6830.
John Woodrow Cox can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1432.