Seasonal Crime on the Rise, Three Major Cases Solved, Three Charged
HERNANDO – The Holidays are supposed to be a joyful time of year but experts say it’s also peak time for criminals to scam, scheme, shoplift, and burglarize unsuspecting victims.
That trend seems to be ringing true again this year with law enforcement officials releasing a higher than average number of crime reports every day.
Here are a few recent examples that will boil your blood.
According to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, a woman and two men are behind bars this evening, all facing various felony charges for ripping off innocent victims.
On December 4th Brooksville Police and Sheriff’s Deputies responded to Brooksville Bicycle Center on West Jefferson Street, after reports of burglary. When deputies arrived on the scene they found the front window to be smashed and over $20,000 dollars were of bicycles missing from the business.
During the ensuing investigation, Detectives learned that 51-year-old John Hazelton was riding one of the stolen bicycles, price tag still attached, around the time of the burglary. Detectives made contact with Hazelton at this home on Estates Ave, where he confessed to stealing 11 bicycles from the business.
Hazelton provided a list where all the bikes were hidden and all were returned to store owner, Marc Reuch.
Hazelton is charged with burglary and grand theft. He is currently held on a $10,000 bond.
On November 11th, a Brooksville resident reported that an unknown person had made entry into his home on Appalachian Drive and stolen thousands of dollars of jewelry and an Apple MacBook.
The victim told deputies that he had received a call earlier in the day from 26-year-old Jorge Garcia, technician at Tropicare Pest Control. Garcia, asked the victim for permission to enter a screened area of the home while no one was home but the victim denied his request.
When the victim returned home later that day he immediately noticed several items were missing.
On Friday Detectives with the Sheriff’s Office met with Tropicare Pest Control who confirmed that Garcia had responded to the victim’s address on the date in question to complete a service call.
A routine check of pawn activity by investigators revealed several suspicious pawn transactions at a local pawn shop around the time when the burglary was believed to have occurred. The victim went to the pawn shop in question where he was able to identify some of the stolen items.
During the investigation a Tropicare Pest Control representative turned over a ring and pair of cuff links found inside Garcia’s company vehicle.
Detectives made contact with Garcia at work where he admitted to entering the home through an unlocked garage window where he stole several pieces of jewelry, and subsequently sold to a local pawn shop.
During questioning, Garcia also admitted to taking a ring from a residence on Quane Avenue. Garcia said he found the ring in the yard while on a service call but made no attempt to see if the ring belonged to the homeowner. The next day Garcia pawned the ring for $1oo at a local pawn shop. That ring was later estimated to be valued at over $24,000 when officials made contact with the pawn shop owner.
The owner of Tropicare Pest Control met each of the victims at the respective pawn shops and purchased all the items back for the victims. The owners also agreed to contact other customers who Garcia might have had contact with to ensure they weren’t missing any items.
Garcia was charged with multiple counts of Grand Theft, Burglary, Providing False Information to a Pawnbroker and Dealing in Stolen Property. His bond is set at $46,000.
The next case is the type of crime that people despise the most; taking advantage of the elderly or disabled.
On December 5th Hernando County Sheriff’s detectives met with Beth Stocke at the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
Stocke reported to detectives that a home healthcare worker was assigned to care for her mother through Mid-Florida Federal, a program from Candid Care. Stocke advised the health care worker, later identified as 48-year-old Tonya Lee Pizarro, who used the alias “Shay” and had a driver’s license with the name Sheila Mari Pizarro, came to care for her mother. Pizarro began working for Stocke’s mother in early November between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Soon after Pizarro started working, Stocke noticed that her Discover card was missing and that several unauthorized purchases had been made with the card. Stocke also discovered several pieces of jewelry were missing from her own bedroom and her mother’s bedroom.
Using the information that was originally provided to Ms. Stocke, detectives attempted to ascertain an identity on the suspect. Investigation revealed that the “copy” of the Florida driver’s license that she provided was fictitious, being a combination of her own information and that of a relative.
During the ensuing investigation, Detectives revealed three recent pawn transactions at a local pawn shop conducted by Pizarro.
A computer check showed Pizarro currently on Felony probation for Credit Card Fraud.
Detectives met with Pizarro at her regularly scheduled probation meeting where ironically she is on felony probation for credit card fraud and confessed to committing the crimes.
Pizarro says she does not make a lot of money and needs money to take care of herself and her child.
Pizarro further stated that she utilized the name Sheila Mari Pizarro to get the job with the home health care agency, due to her criminal past, and being unable to get a job.
Detectives made telephone contact with Candid Care and explained what happened with Pizarro. They were immediately concerned at how “Sheila Mari Pizarro” was approved for employment through their background check process. Additionally, Candid Care was making arrangements to purchase the victim’s jewelry back from the pawn shop.
Pizarro was taken into custody and charged with grand theft, dealing in stolen property, defrauding a pawnbroker, and violation of probation. She is held without bond at this time.
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