The sculptures depicted birds, children and other figures and were valued between $1,000 and $4,000 each.
But, according to local law-enforcement agencies, a Bradenton man stole the sculptures from local homes to sell as scrap metal for approximately $100 each, according to a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Jason McMahon, 40, of Bradenton, was arrested Sept. 19, on charges involving thefts of bird statues from at least three homes on Siesta Key and in Prestancia.
McMahon, who worked for a local pool company, is also the suspect behind a string of similar thefts on Longboat Key and other parts of Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Longboat Key police began investigating the theft of bronze statues in August and September, according to a news release.
Investigative efforts by Longboat Key officers and Sarasota and Manatee County detectives and one victim led law enforcement to a Manatee County scrap yard, where McMahon was allegedly selling the sculptures. Approximately $8,500 worth of stolen property has been returned to Longboat residents.
Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming said that eight Key statues have been identified and recovered, while another seven have been recovered that are believed to come from Key homes. Another two statues have been reported missing that haven’t yet been recovered.
Police anticipate that they will receive additional reports of stolen sculptures as seasonal residents return, Cumming said.
At press time, McMahon was being held at the Sarasota County jail in lieu of $12,620 bond on five charges of larceny of property valued at more than $300 but less than $5,000; one count of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling; and one count of possession of narcotic equipment.
Court records show that McMahon has not yet been charged in Manatee County.
“This is a prime example of the level of desperation that is driving local crime,” said Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight in a news release. “People addicted to prescription drugs will steal just about anything to fund their habit, and he was getting about $100 for each statue despite their actual value.”
Cumming told the Longboat Observer that stolen metal objects are often melted down and sold. Several months ago, the island had a string of thefts involving items such as copper tooling, air-conditioning units and plumbing fixtures.
Cumming recommended that residents put valuable lawn ornaments in their garages if they go out of town. Still, he said, statue theft usually isn’t a problem on the island.
“It’s a little bit extreme to have to put things away each time you leave the house,” he said.
Longboat Key residents who are missing bronze statues or similar bronze or brass ornamentation are urged to call police at 316-1977.
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