A work schedule left behind in a vehicle burglary leads police to two suspects in a string of package thefts on Longboat Key
In his 12 years as property manager of Tangerine Bay Club, Jorge Allen had never seen so much disappearing mail.
Ballet flats, bedding, lemonade, yarn — all were among the more than $1,500 worth of missing goods reported at the south-end condominium complex, according to police reports.
Police say the items disappeared during a string of thefts that have occurred for at least three months, as a daily paper route provided a pair of thieves easy access to thousands of dollars’ worth of stolen goods on the island.
But thanks to detective work, a stakeout and a misstep from suspects — a discarded schedule at the scene of a vehicle burglary that laid out their upcoming whereabouts — police say that route has hit a dead end.
Officers have charged 33-year-old Aaron Perkins and 27-year-old newspaper delivery driver Rikiya Parks with petit theft in connection with a stolen pair of size 9 Chico’s sandals. But Longboat Key Police Sgt. Bob Borque suspects the couple is behind dozens of similar crimes.
In recent months, complaints of missing packages have mounted at the 90-unit Tangerine Bay Club.
“Once in a while, someone will say they can’t find they package, and even when this started it was just two or three people within a month,” Allen said. “But when more and more people came forward, I told them to call the police.”
Last month, Officer Wendy McGinnis canvassed the area around the condo to investigate reports of homeless encampments that could be responsible but found no evidence to support them.
“I was determined to solve this one,” McGinnis said.
Then, on May 8, police investigated a vehicle burglary in which a Tervis tumbler cup and gym bag were stolen. The investigation yielded the first major clue: the suspects’ newspaper delivery schedule that they inadvertently left behind.
On May 11, McGinnis staked out Bay Harbour, where the burglary occurred, and observed an SUV driver slinging papers who appeared near a package she was watching. When the driver moved on to a new neighborhood, she noticed the package was missing.
McGinnis and Officer Jeff Morningstar stopped the vehicle, which was occupied by Perkins and Parks, who were both on probation, and found the package. The former suspect also admitted to stealing a $100 leather gym bag and $10 Tervis tumbler out of a car earlier this month — though he threw out the cup because it was cracked.
Bay Harbour, Bayport Beach and Tennis Club, the Sanctuary at Longboat Key Club and the Tangerine Bay Club were among those targeted by the thieves, Bourque said. Police have linked at least 10 victims to the pair, who were found to have five packages bearing Longboat addresses in their motel unit on the 2400 block of North Tamiami Trail.
Those packages hadn’t even been reported missing, because many unknowing victims just called Amazon, the U.S. Postal Service or UPS, thinking their items had been lost in the mail.
Allen, the Tangerine Bay Club property manager, praised Borque and the department for their work on the case.
“He keeps Longboat Key safe,” Allen said. “He was determined, he wanted it done, and he wanted to find a culprit.”
But Bourque said many south-end residents might not know they have been victimized.
“There’s going to be other charges pending,” Borque said.
The crime spree could prompt Tangerine Bay Club residents to install surveillance cameras around the mail drop center, Allen said. Although a majority of owners said they would support such an investment in a recent survey, the incident “should move things along a lot quicker,” Allen said.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.