Thieves fishing tenants' rent from drop-boxes around Pinellas

- November rent was late for several people around Largo, but it wasn't their fault. Thieves in Pinellas County are targeting peoples' rent money. 

In the last week, the Largo Police Department has investigated eight cases involving checks and money orders stolen from apartment complex drop-boxes. They say other Pinellas County agencies have investigated similar cases as well.

Surveillance video caught two men at the Sandy Lane Apartments, off Belcher Road. 

"It started out Friday morning, coming in, and there was a sticky substance in our drop-box. I thought it was a prank to begin with," said Shane Gaddy, assistant property manager. "We ended up having to resurface our chute."

When it was in worse shape Monday, he knew something was up. So, he checked surveillance video and realized it was no prank. It was a crime.

"Oh honestly, anger," Gaddy said, describing is reaction to the video. "I mean, that's not even my money. But, I was angry. This is other people's hard-earned money."

Video shows a dark SUV drive past the leasing office. Then, two men walk toward the drop-box, fish around, and begin stuffing papers into their pockets. They duck behind the bushes anytime they see headlights.

"They're using a cable and they're fishing that cable through the box and then they've got some sort of sticky substance on the end," Gaddy explained. "It attaches itself to anything in the box and they simply pull it right back up. Simple fishing for money."

"It was shocking and sad for the people it happened to," said resident Norma Tesoriero. "I really feel bad for them."

Gaddy said, they're missing about 10 payments.

"We've notified all of our residents that we are no longer using the drop-box and to ensure that no one does it, we've actually screwed it shut. It will eventually be replaced," Gaddy said. "We are not the only one hit but we are going to make it the last time we are hit."

In the meantime, they're encouraging residents to pay online, or drop off their checks at the office. That's the only way Tesoriero does it.

"Put your rent check in the office hands, not a box," Tesoriero said. "Then, you know they've got your rent."

Anyone with information regarding these incidents is asked to call Detective Lance Moore at (727)586-7478.

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