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Couple arrested after St. Petersburg police find stolen tortoises, rare books

Police say Joshua McCarty-Thomas also is facing charges in connection to the theft of rare books at Haslam’s Book Store and Lighthouse Books.
 
St. Petersburg Police Department detectives work the scene at a home where two stolen rare tortoises were recovered Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg Police Department detectives work the scene at a home where two stolen rare tortoises were recovered Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 16, 2023|Updated May 18, 2023

Two endangered Galapagos tortoises, rare books and comic books went missing from locations across Florida. On Tuesday, a couple was arrested after police determined they sold some of the items on eBay and kept other valuables — including the rare reptiles — at a St. Petersburg home.

Joshua McCarty-Thomas, 46, was taken into custody after detectives serving a search warrant at his home, located at 2435 10th St. S, discovered one of the missing tortoises dead in his freezer and the other alive in his yard, according to a Tuesday evening news release from the St. Petersburg Police Department. Joshua McCarty-Thomas’ spouse, Dashae McCarty-Thomas, 29, was arrested as a co-defendant in the case, according to criminal report affidavits.

According to a state of Florida database updated weekly, Dashae McCarty-Thomas is employed by the Department of Corrections as a correctional officer. She was hired in 2022, according to the database.

The Florida Department of Corrections told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday that she was dismissed as a correctional officer trainee.

The juvenile Galapagos tortoises had microchips, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials scanned the chips and confirmed they were the same tortoises that had been stolen from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine on Nov. 30, police said.

Each tortoise is worth about $10,000, according to the release.

In a Facebook post announcing the theft last year, the zoo said the tortoises had been born there in 2017 and were part of a captive breeding program at the facility. The rare reptiles “require special diets and supplements,” officials warned in the post.

Galapagos tortoises can weigh up to 600 pounds when fully grown and can live for 150 years.

St. Petersburg police say Joshua McCarty-Thomas also faces commercial burglary charges in connection to rare-book thefts committed at two St. Pete businesses: Haslam’s Book Store, 2025 Central Ave., on Dec. 16, and Lighthouse Books, 1735 First Ave. N, on Oct. 15, 2019. In each instance, the value of the stolen books was said to be in the thousands of dollars.

An arrest affidavit for Joshua McCarty-Thomas, with Dashae McCarty-Thomas listed as the co-defendant, states that a rare Boston American newspaper folio collection was among the stolen items at Lighthouse Books.

“The M.O. of this burglary matches that of other burglaries McCarty is involved with, in that of the potential use of a lock pick,” an affidavit states.

Police said the folio collection was sold May 7 on eBay from an account called “You_Can_Never_Have_Too_Much_Awesome.” The item’s shipping label was created in St. Petersburg, the affidavit states.

Samantha Here, a forensics technician with the St. Petersburg Police Department, removes the body of a stolen Galapagos tortoise from a home in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
Samantha Here, a forensics technician with the St. Petersburg Police Department, removes the body of a stolen Galapagos tortoise from a home in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
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Multiple arrest affidavits for the couple mention stolen comics from Florida and Indiana.

Read More Comics, 115 E Brandon Blvd. in Brandon, was burglarized in 2022, according to an affidavit. Items — including “Transformers” comics — went missing from the store. One of the stolen comics was sold on eBay under an account registered to Joshua and Dashae McCarty-Thomas, the affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, other stolen items from the comic book store were found inside Dashae McCarty-Thomas’ car.

In addition, an arrest warrant for Joshua McCarty-Thomas has been issued stemming from a store burglary in Ocala where “valuable comic books worth thousands of dollars were stolen,” according to the release, which said that “other cases are pending.”

The Elkhart Police Department in Indiana also received a report about a burglary at a comic book museum in March, according to a St. Petersburg police affidavit. Investigators determined that the stolen comics from that burglary were being sold on an eBay account belonging to Joshua and Dashae McCarty-Thomas. One of the comic’s shipping labels was created on May 9, the affidavit said.

An endangered Galapagos tortoise, center, is inspected by St. Petersburg detectives Tuesday. Police say the rare reptile was one of two taken from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park on Nov. 30.
An endangered Galapagos tortoise, center, is inspected by St. Petersburg detectives Tuesday. Police say the rare reptile was one of two taken from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park on Nov. 30. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Pinellas court records show Joshua McCarty-Thomas also was arrested earlier this year in connection with a burglary at a home in the 400 block of 20th Avenue NE in St. Petersburg on Christmas Day. He is awaiting trial in that case and has pleaded not guilty, court records show.

According to an affidavit, Joshua McCarty-Thomas and a co-defendant, Michael Campbell, 45, broke into the home while the residents were away.

“Numerous items were stolen from inside the residence by both defendants in this case,” an affidavit states.

Joshua McCarty-Thomas, 46, has been arrested on charges that he stole tortoises and rare books.
Joshua McCarty-Thomas, 46, has been arrested on charges that he stole tortoises and rare books. [ Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]

An arrest affidavit for Campbell says that he got into the home by picking the lock.

The items stolen from the home include acoustic guitars, jewelry, designer purses and a rifle. The objects were then loaded into a 2018 BMW 530i, which also belonged to the resident, and taken from the home, the affidavit states. The stolen items are valued at tens of thousands of dollars, the affidavit states.

A warrant for Campbell’s phone led authorities to discover a record of Campbell and Joshua McCarty-Thomas planning the burglary, the affidavit said.

Michael Campbell, 45, was arrested by St. Petersburg police Dec. 26 in connection with a burglary at a home on the 400 block of 20th Avenue NE on Christmas Day, according to an affidavit. His co-defendant in that case is listed as Joshua McCarty-Thomas, a St. Petersburg man who was arrested Tuesday after authorities say he stole two endangered Galapagos tortoises, rare books and comic books from several locations across Florida.
Michael Campbell, 45, was arrested by St. Petersburg police Dec. 26 in connection with a burglary at a home on the 400 block of 20th Avenue NE on Christmas Day, according to an affidavit. His co-defendant in that case is listed as Joshua McCarty-Thomas, a St. Petersburg man who was arrested Tuesday after authorities say he stole two endangered Galapagos tortoises, rare books and comic books from several locations across Florida. [ Photo provided / Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office ]

Joshua McCarty-Thomas was being held at the Pinellas County jail on $97,000 bail as of Wednesday afternoon, records show. He is facing four counts of dealing in stolen property, two counts of burglary and two other charges from Marion County. Dashae McCarty-Thomas is being held at the same jail on $60,000 bail, facing three charges of dealing in stolen property.

Dashae McCarty-Thomas, 29, was arrested by St. Petersburg police Tuesday and faces three charges of dealing in stolen property in connection with the thefts of two endangered Galapagos tortoises, rare books and comic books from several locations across Florida.
Dashae McCarty-Thomas, 29, was arrested by St. Petersburg police Tuesday and faces three charges of dealing in stolen property in connection with the thefts of two endangered Galapagos tortoises, rare books and comic books from several locations across Florida. [ Photo provided / Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office ]

Times staff writer Chris Tisch contributed to this report.