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TRAIL OF COINS LEADS TO THIEVES

Pieces of a valuable collection are dropped like crumbs after a home is burglarized.

Two teens broke into a Brandon home and carried off at least $100,000 worth of rare coins, according to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office.

The coins belonged to the Dempsey family, a Brandon couple who have coins that date to the 1800s, Catherine Dempsey said.

Their collection includes currency from business trips to Brazil and Mexico, as well as silver certificates and currency passed down through generations, she said.

Also stolen was an emerald 20th-anniversary ring, a piece of sentimental value because it came from the Caribbean island where the Dempseys wed.

The Dempseys weren't home when thieves broke open their patio door in early June. A neighbor spotted two teens carting off coins and family jewelry and called deputies.

Deputies followed a trail of dropped coins through an apartment complex and found the teens, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said. Investigators interviewed both teens and found coins inside the home of the 15-year-old boy, she said.

Deputies arrested Devon Sims, 17, of 4010 E Hanna Ave. on June 7 and the 15-year-old Hillsborough County teen on June 5, said Carter. Both were taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center, Carter said.

The St. Petersburg Times is withholding the second boy's name because of his age.

After a delay while authorities decided whether to charge them as adults, Sims was booked into the Hillsborough County jail on Monday, charged with grand theft of $100,000 or more and burglary of a dwelling. He remained in jail Tuesday on $22,500 bail, jail records show.

The teens told deputies they had also burglarized a house in Tampa, Carter said.

Investigators found most of the Dempseys' coins and jewels, Carter said.

"We didn't get all of them back, but a good portion," Dempsey said.

The valuables were insured, but the family didn't have enough to cover the full value, Dempsey said. She said she didn't know whether the burglars knew about the coins when they broke into the home.

The couple live in a suburban neighborhood off of Providence Lakes Road.

Dempsey said she didn't want to give too much information about the family's home or collection.

"I'm just fearful that it could happen again," she said.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or vansickle@sptimes.com.

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