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'Smash-and-Grab' theft ring busted in Florida

Attorney general : Crime ring stole nearly $1 million of goods

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said they have stopped a massive smash-and-grab theft ring responsible for nearly $1 million in property loss. Law enforcement arrested five members of the theft ring. At least one fugitive is still wanted. 

Members of the alleged crime organization face charges connected to burglaries of at least 14 businesses spanning several Florida counties. According to a multiagency investigation, the crimes occurred from May through September and followed a similar pattern. The method of operation involved members of the ring smashing a hole in the wall of a business, rushing inside, disabling the security system and fleeing with thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise. 

The investigation estimates the ring is responsible for more than $830,000 in stolen goods and property damage. Stores targeted included boating, discount, liquor  and tire stores, among others. The burglaries occurred in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Polk counties. Most of the defendants reside in Miami. Stolen items include cigarettes, liquor, tires, a handgun, boating and fishing equipment and a digital video recorder system.

Law enforcement arrested the following defendants in connection with the crimes:
·    Alexi Ludena Espinosa, 39, of Coconut Grove
·    Michel Rodriguez, 33, of Miami
·    Yanet Fernandez, 44, of Riverview
·    Remberto Gonzalez, 29, of Miami
·    Jorge Gonzalez, 37, of Miami

There is an active arrest warrant out for Leandro Leyva, 31, from Miami.

All six suspects face charges of armed burglary, conspiracy, grand theft, grand theft firearm, grand theft of a motor vehicle and more. 

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County Aviation, Tampa Police Department, Largo Police Department and the Bradenton Police Department all contributed to the investigation.