WINTER HAVEN (FOX 13) - Caught on camera and shared on Facebook: a Winter Haven woman probably didn't "like" it when she saw a video of herself, allegedly shoplifting, pop up in her Facebook feed.
Winter Haven Police posted the video to their official Facebook page Thursday, asking for the public's help identifying a man and a woman who stole hundreds of dollars' worth of merchandise from a Walmart. The post even offered a Crime Stoppers reward, but that organization will get to keep its money after what happened within minutes of the posting.
Winter Haven Police say tips and comments began pouring in almost instantly. When one commenter posted, "They ride the. City [sic] bus all the time," a woman with the user name Elaina Anderson replied, "I have a car."
After several people commented about the their outing herself and calling Crime Stoppers for the reward, commenter Elaina Anderson, known by police as Elaina West, wrote, "Ain't no reward I'm coming in."
Things escalated quickly from there.
One Facebook user replied, "lol sucks to get caught!!!! Can I get the reward?" to which West responded, "yea these nutts."
West trolled several commenters in the post, responding with cry-laughing emojis to someone who'd suggested she and her husband were likely using their stolen wares to cook steaks, seafood and "variety of unhealthy foods" they'd bought with food stamps. She later informed another woman, who'd suggested tipping off Winter Haven Police about her Facebook posts, "Correction I'm at the police station."
Police say West admitted she and husband, Patrick West, stole hundreds of dollars' worth of kitchenware and a kiddie pool from a Winter Haven Walmart to support their drug habit.
Winter haven police say this is isn't the first time Facebook has prompted a criminal to turn themselves in, but it is the first time someone outed themselves right on their page. They say media attention, especially on social media, helps to turn up the heat on criminals.
"There are video cameras everywhere and people are going to see what you're doing and when you're doing wrong it's going to be publicized so that we can catch you and make you pay for what you did wrong," said Winter Haven Police Chief Charles Bird, who says he's happy the case was solved quickly and without having to use significant resources. ""It was good to be able to get [an arrest] so fast, although I think there might be some unhappy people that wanted to report it to Crime Stoppers."
West and her husband, who was already behind bars on an unrelated drug charge, are now facing grand theft charges.