TAMPA, Fla. - The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is warning bank customers to be cautious after a relatively new kind of crime has caught several off-guard.
Criminals are watching people as they leave the bank and then follow them to steal their cash when they go into other stores. It's called "bank jugging" and it's already happened to several victims, including once last week.
On Nov. 1 around 5:30 p.m., a man withdrew $17,000 in cash from the TD Bank, located at 10821 North Dale Mabry Highway. Investigators say the victim placed the money into a manila envelope and secured it inside the center console of his vehicle. The victim then drove to Lowe's on North Dale Mabry Highway, locked his car, and went inside. While he was gone, the money was stolen.
Deputies say a tan or light gray SUV pulled up next to the vehicle, a suspect got out and punched the lock on the driver's side front door. The suspect took the money from the center console and took off.
HCSO said this is the fourth case involving bank jugging it has investigated in the last few months.
On Sept. 5, a man withdrew $10,000 from Wells Fargo on North Dale Mabry Highway. He then drove to another Wells Fargo on North Dale Mabry Highway to make a second cash withdrawal. Deputies said the victim parked his truck in the rear parking lot of the bank. That's when an unknown suspect(s) punched out the driver’s door lock, grabbed the $10,000 from the center console and fled.
Tampa police are also investigating at least one case of bank jugging. On July 11, a went to Bank of America on West Hillsborough Avenue and withdrew cash from the drive-thru teller. The victim put the cash in the center console of his truck, parked his vehicle in the bank parking lot, and entered the bank to withdraw additional cash.
Police say, while the victim was standing in line, one suspect was observed walking from a silver van and stood in line behind the victim. During this time, the silver van parked next to the victim's truck and unknown suspect(s) punched the driver's side door lock and removed the cash within.
Afterward, the suspect inside the bank left the line, exited the bank, and got back into the silver van, fleeing the scene.
Law enforcement advises drivers to not leave valuables inside your vehicle. If you are making a large cash withdrawal, secure the envelope or cash out of sight before leaving the bank. And make sure the bank is your last stop of the day before returning home.
Anyone with information on these bank jugging cases is asked to contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200 or Tampa Police Department at 813-231-6130. In order to be eligible for a cash reward, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com You must call Crime Stoppers first to be eligible for a reward.