TAMPA, Fla. - Law enforcement agencies from two counties announced Tuesday the arrests of six people, accused of burglarizing 24 homes since last spring.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, the investigation began last fall when detectives noticed similarities between burglaries in the Odessa, Keystone, and Lutz areas.
The burglars would arrive in a white van, dressed as construction or utility workers. They would break in through the rear of a home, either through windows or sliding glass doors.
Detectives with Tampa police and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office soon realized they had similar crimes in their areas, and they teamed up to investigate.
"They were just going where they thought they'd get the biggest bang for their buck," said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
Investigators believe the five men and one woman are responsible for 24 burglaries, stealing more than $1 million worth of property and money combined. Fifteen of the crimes took place in South Tampa, two in Pasco County and the rest in the Hillsborough County area.
Investigators said the thieves mostly targeted high-end jewelry.
"These people actually just had jewelry everywhere. They had rings within planters -- you would open up drawers where you'd think that knives and forks would be, and there was just jewelry laying in them," Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco explained. "The nice thing was, because of our partnership with Hillsborough deputies and Tampa cops, were able to start identifying everything, saying, 'That belongs to this case, that belongs to that case.'"
Nocco said one of the victims in Pasco County had $900,000 in memorabilia stolen, including a signed Jimi Hendrix guitar and Salvador Dali painting. The South Tampa burglaries saw $500,000 in belongings go missing.
According to detectives, two of the criminals are the former owners of Smart Steps Academy daycare on Wilsky Boulevard. Investigators said the two suspects no longer operate the facility.