HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. --- An alleged thief has wiped homes clean of kitchen appliances worth thousands of dollars. The high-dollar items disappeared from the new home under construction.
The news blindsided homeowner Rafael Romero.
A warrant obtained by ABC Action News details of a year-long investigation of the incidents. A thief ransacked Romero's new home before he ever had the chance to move in.
“I feel violated," said Romero, "It’s very, very uncomfortable.”
He had no idea until ABC Action News told him.
“It would have been nice to know that that was an ongoing investigation. We did not know anything about that,” said Romero.
Hillsborough County deputies believe Nicholas Messer was responsible. He’s now sitting in jail on several burglary charges.
“There’s a relief because an awareness has been created now that he’s behind bars," said Romero.
Now, the HCSO is working on charging Messer for many more thefts of newly installed appliances. State prosecutors are also investigating the alleged thief.
“There’s not enough security. Point blank there’s not enough security," he said.
According to court documents, Messer rented vans to move stolen appliances from construction sites. He’s linked to thefts in the Belmont and Triple Creek subdivisions, and this isn't his first time.
Messer was arrested in 2016 for the same incidences.
The HCSO has 140 cases of such appliances thefts since January 2018 and believe Messer could be behind a portion of them.
Hillsborough County deputies are now reviewing Messer’s phone in hopes to find more evidence. So far, the HCSO believes he was working alone.
Mark Metheny, Division President, Lennar Central Florida released this statement:
Lennar Tampa has been made aware of the incident involving Mr. Messer. We intend to fully cooperate with local law enforcement in this ongoing investigation concerning our properties and intend to press charges. All inquiries can be directed to the Sheriff’s Office.