OCALA, Fla. – Ocala police say a couple that stole $500,000 worth of merchandise from stores around Central Florida could each serve lengthy prison sentences.
Home Depot, Publix and CVS stores were targeted in six different counties. Eye drops, medication and tools disappeared.
Ocala police Detective Sean Young explained how he cracked the slick stealing scheme through a months-long investigation after the stores noticed similar thefts at several of their Central Florida locations.
"The stores started to say, 'Wait a minute, we're seeing the same people in stores in Orlando, Ocala, Gainesville, Tampa, Crystal River, Daytona Beach."
The stores delivered a stack of paperwork 2 feet high to Young that listed dates, times and stores.
"I spent about a week going through, piecing together dates and locations and putting in proper format to present to (a) judge for (a) tracking order," Young said.
A judge granted the tracking order so Young could begin surveillance on the couple.
"For approximately two months, I was working crazy hours, rotating my shift, coming in at 8 a.m. one day, getting home at midnight that night," Young said.
Young followed the couple to stores and would even follow the couple into the stores.
"The man has an unnatural step," Young said. "The type of pants he's wearing, he's modified them with concealed pockets inside to conceal stolen merchandise, sewn into his pants."
Young said the man would take the power tools off the shelves at Home Depot, carry them to an aisle without cameras, remove the packaging, stuff the tools into the secret pockets and walk out.
Young discovered the couple was stealing from dozens of stores, making a ring around Central Florida, from Ocala to Orlando to Daytona Beach and back to Marion County.
"They would go out and start a route, and they were fairly predictable," Young said. "We began to notice a pattern that they were stopping at one of two residences."
Those houses in Orlando, Young said, turned out to be illegal stores for selling the stolen merchandise.
"He had shelves, he had all of the DeWalt tools on shelves," Young said. "He also had Rubbermaid tote containers loaded with the tools, which he would take to construction sites for sale."
After months of surveillance and evidence gathering, Young arrested Gilbert Libron and Lacher Lindsey for 37 separate cases of statewide thefts totaling $500,000 in stolen merchandise.
Young said Libron and Lindsey were selling the stolen power tools to workers at the Orlando soccer stadium while it was under construction. They were also peddling the stolen tools online.
At CVS and Publix, they would steal small-sized, big-ticket items like eyedrops and medication and return the goods for gift cards, Young said. They'd then use the gift cards to buy food, beer and cigarettes.
Young said Libron pleaded guilty to local theft charges and is serving time in prison while the statewide Florida Department of Law Enforcement case against him is pending.
Lindsey served two months in the Marion County Jail before being sent to Pasco County for violation of probation charges. Her statewide FDLE case is also pending.
If convicted of statewide charges, both face lengthy prison sentences.