SARASOTA (FOX 13) - A business owner turned the tables on a couple of thieves by luring them to bring back his stolen property with the help of Craigslist.
Kary Zarem, owner of Apex Tree and Landscape in Sarasota, said after more than $53,000 of equipment went missing, he posted an ad hoping someone would recognize the haul. And it worked.
Zarem said it started after his employees noticed a flatbed trailer loaded with two tree stump grinders was missing from his fenced lot off Fruitville Road on Monday. Zarem called the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office to report the burglary.
He said he was especially concerned because he was in the process of getting new insurance on the equipment, which is worth $53,000. If he didn't recover his property, it would have been a total loss.
"I was told it might be three weeks before a detective got ahold of me, and that just wasn't going to work. I knew in three weeks my equipment was history," said Zarem.
He and a friend turned to the internet for help.
"The first places we hit were all the swap shops, Man Cave, we put it out there. Some of my employees put it out there," said Zarem.
When nothing turned up, Zarem got creative. He posted Craigslists ads in cities all across the state, offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who knew about the stolen equipment.
A man in Miami reached out to him, saying two men tried to sell him the exact same equipment. The man agreed to put Zarem in contact with the suspects to set up a fake buy.
Zarem convinced 34-year-old Adrian Martinez, of Immokalee, and 32-year-old Alfred Everett Junior, of Naples, to meet up with him at a service station along Alligator Alley in South Florida to sell the equipment. He contacted local police along the way.
When the men arrived, they were caught red-handed by Miccosukee Police.
Martinez and Everett were both arrested and charged with grand theft of more than $20,000. They were booked into the Broward County Jail.
According to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, more charges could follow.
Zarem was able to get two pieces of equipment back, but the most expensive piece, a Vermeer 40 X Stump Grinder, was sold online before he could catch the culprits.
Zarem is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who returns the equipment.