BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Antonio Lamar Giles, a 32-year-old convicted felon, would steal from Brevard County and sell the stolen items in Orange County, according to Agent Jeremy Benton, the Brevard County sheriff's deputy who eventually arrested Giles.
"If you don't want to get caught, go where people don't know you," Benton said.
Jewelry, gold especially, was disappearing from homes by the pound. From one house alone, $14,000 worth of jewelry was stolen.
"A lot of them were family heirlooms," Benton said.
Benton said the M.O. was the same: the thief would knock on the door and when no one answered, kick in the door, ransack the house and leave with jewelry, electronics, even a gun.
Windover Farms in Titusville, directly across the street from the Brevard County Sheriff's Office North Precinct, was targeted.
"Right up the road, we spoke to a lady who thought she wouldn't get anything back," Benton said.
He was not hopeful either. Most jewelry cannot be easily identified or tracked because most people don't take pictures of it or place unique markings on it, Benton said.
Pawn shops are required by law to record serial numbers of all items taken in -- if they have visible serial numbers -- and enter them into a statewide database.
Only a few of the homeowners who'd been burglarized had kept proof of their serial numbers; most don't keep track of them, Benton said. He entered those into the statewide database.
One day last month, he got a hit.
An Xbox game console that had been stolen from Brevard County had been sold at a pawn shop in Orange County.
Benton traveled to the pawn shop and discovered the same person who'd sold the game console to the pawn shop had sold dozens of items more than 20 times in one month.
Benton said the person was Antonio Giles.
"It's really what broke the case open because a lot of these items, especially jewelry, is really hard to track," Benton said.
Benton then spent countless hours over the next few weeks driving back and forth between Orange and Brevard counties and to victims' homes to cross-reference the stolen jewelry and electronics.
He was able to build a case that put Giles in jail facing charges for several burglaries. Detectives from other agencies are working to connect Giles with other burglaries.
Benton returned most of the stolen items to the victims -- one woman in particular.
"As soon as I showed her those photographs, her face lit up," Benton said. "I immediately knew without her saying anything that these items were hers, and she was shocked because she thought she'd never get them back."
Giles is in jail held on $170,000 bond.
Benton said recording serial numbers or etching unique numbers or markings onto jewelry is key to recovering it if it is ever stolen.
Benton said etching your driver's license number onto a personal belonging makes it easily identifiable by any law enforcement officer anywhere.
The stolen gun was never recovered. Benton believes it was sold on the street.