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Police: Thief stocking up on truck batteries

PINELLAS PARK — The batteries began disappearing in September from scrapyards, rental truck lots, tree-trimming businesses and moving companies.

By the end of the month, more than 100 batteries from dozens of trucks were missing in the commercial area near 126th Avenue N and 49th Street, police said.

"The amount of thefts and burglaries we were experiencing was becoming overwhelming," said Pinellas Park spokesman Sgt. Adam Geissenberger. "It was at that point that we decided to conduct surveillance."

Pinellas Park and Pinellas County Sheriff's Office detectives were doing just that Sept. 27 when they saw a Dodge conversion van, the same van they had recently learned belonged to the serial battery thief.

Deputies stopped the Dodge, which didn't have a license plate. Inside they found Steven Matthew Weidner, 42, of St. Petersburg. His fingerprints matched those left behind in the battery compartments of some of the victims' trucks, Geissenberger said.

Also inside the van was his father, Barry Weidner, 65, accused of acting as a lookout Sept. 20 while his son stole 12 batteries worth $3,600, an arrest affidavit shows.

After his arrest, the younger Weidner admitted to several of the thefts. Some were small: In the early morning hours of Sept. 3, he opened the compartments of three commercial trucks at 12495 34th St. N and stole 10 batteries valued at $1,500.

Other times, he was more ambitious, arrest affidavits show. He pilfered 27 batteries with a total value of $5,400 from 10 commercial trucks and six wood chippers on Sept. 19 at 5153 126th Ave N.

Although the truck batteries he stole were pricier, detectives believe he was selling them for $10 to $15 apiece, Geissenberger said. Authorities recovered about 40 stolen batteries from Weidner's van.

Weidner faces 18 counts of burglary. He remained at the Pinellas County Jail on Monday in lieu of $90,000 bail.

Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel.

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