Cell phone store burglars hit multiple locations

- Sarasota County deputies believe there's a group traveling across the state stealing merchandise from cell phone stores. They make their move in the early morning hours, and if they can't get into one store they continue on to others.

Deputies hope surveillance video footage will lead to an arrest. 

It started around 3 a.m. April 27. Four men, masked and wearing hoodies, tried their hardest to break into a Verizon store in Venice. When the glass wouldn't break, Captain John Walsh with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said the group moved on to another Verizon store, half an hour away.

"They know which stores they want to get into," said Captain John Walsh. "They usually use items that they found nearby. In this case, they used a brick to try break the glass."

As hard as the men tried to break in, they weren't successful. An hour after starting their rampage, they had luck at a Sprint store in the city of Sarasota.

"The group has experience doing this. They were in the store maybe a minute. They had the tools that were necessary to bust the door open and they were in and out," said Sgt. Johnathan Todd.

Sarasota police Sergeant Johnathan Todd said the group got away with thousands of dollars in merchandise.

"Cell phones, high-end head phones, tablets. Things of that nature," he said.

Deputies think the men are part of a bigger crime ring; one that could stretch across the state of Florida.

"There are several reports of this behavior, where people are breaking into these cell phone-type businesses and stealing cell phones and probably selling them through social media-type sites," said Capt. Walsh.

The group has left behind some clues about who they are.

"These folks aren't nearly as smart as they think they are, and will leave trace evidence behind. We are following up on some leads," said Sgt. Todd.

Detectives hope the video will help lead them to the four masked men.

"We just want to identify them and, from there, we will identify where they go," said Capt. Walsh.

Anyone with information is asked to contact SCSO Detective Ortiz at 941-861-1712 or Sarasota Police Detective Revil at 941-954-7092, or submit an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers of Sarasota County by calling 941-366-TIPS (8477) or online at www.sarasotacrimestoppers.com.

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