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Watch repairman steals $180,000 from Port Richey Sears, authorities say

PORT RICHEY — For years, Salvador Cherta ran the watch repair counter at Sears inside Gulf View Square mall. But authorities say for the past three years, Cherta has quietly siphoned for himself more than $180,000 from the department store.

Cherta, 60, was arrested Tuesday and charged with embezzlement. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said he got the money by submitting false sales and repair claims to Sears. A new Sears manager noticed the invoices were extremely high — $43,000 from February to June, compared to $4,000 for similar watch repair services in other Sears stores — prompting an investigation, according to a Sheriff's Office report.

Sears declined to comment Wednesday.

Cherta, of 3886 Crescent Cove Place in Tarpon Springs, was released from the Pasco jail Tuesday on $10,000 bail. He was unable to be reached for comment Wednesday.

A report states Cherta confessed to the thefts but did not give a reason why he allegedly committed them.

Cherta's name was also in the news a decade ago, when his wife, Guadalupe Cherta, was accused of Medicaid fraud. Authorities said she fraudulently accepted more than $47,000 in Medicaid funds for their son, Michael Cherta, who has cerebral palsy, when the family didn't financially qualify for the money. The Chertas ran a medical equipment company and had $800,000 in cash. The family was on a cruise when she was arrested, authorities said at the time.

Court records state Guadalupe Cherta pleaded not guilty and entered a pre-trial diversion program. The arrest, seemingly her only one in Florida, does not show up in her criminal history records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Court records indicate the couple have had financial distress since then, including a bankruptcy.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6229.

Watch repairman steals $180,000 from Port Richey Sears, authorities say 08/22/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 8:28pm]

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