A 16-year-old is accused of stealing all-terrain vehicles and using them to drive over rows of planted strawberries at a farm, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies are looking for at least two others in connection with the destruction of an estimated $3,000 worth of strawberries.
The investigation started Wednesday when deputies said they were dispatched to a home on Bethlehem Road to look into a report of a stolen all-terrain vehicle. Tire tracks were found at a nearby strawberry field leading to the road. That same day, another all-terrain vehicle was reported stolen from a home on Sydney Washer Road.
Whoever took the all-terrain vehicles took them to Astin Farms at 3610 Holloway Road in Plant City, deputies said. The vehicles were used to drive through rows of strawberries that were still growing, causing an estimated $3,000 worth of damage. The Sheriff’s Office did not say when the crop was damaged, but October is when farmers plant transplants.
Deputies said they found one of the stolen all-terrain vehicles at a home on Calhoun Road in Plant City. The 16-year-old who was there at the time “confessed to stealing the vehicles,” according to the Sheriff’s Office, and to driving through the strawberry field at Astin Farms. The Sheriff’s Office said it is looking for at least two others.
The 16-year-old was arrested on five counts of burglary of an unoccupied structure; four counts of grand theft motor vehicle; two counts of grand theft of $750 to $5,000; and single counts of grand theft of $10,000 to $20,000, grand theft of $5,000 to $10,000, dealing in stolen property, burglary of an occupied dwelling, criminal mischief of $1,000 or more and trespassing,
The teen has been arrested more than a dozen times, deputies said. He was arrested in a string of businesses and farms in rural Hillsborough that were broken into in June and July, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Tampa Bay Times is withholding the 16-year-old’s name because of his age.
Editor’s note: The description of how strawberries are grown was corrected from an earlier version of this story.