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Officials arrest 4 who sneaked onto bus, robbed strawberry pickers as they worked in the fields

Posted at 4:14 PM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 06:58:02-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Four people are facing charges tied to a series of burglaries at Plant City strawberry fields.

Court documents obtained by ABC Action News shows that 32 victims have come forward since late December. The documents detail the burglars sneaking onto the fields and entering unlocked work buses all while migrants worked in the field.

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The news is hard to stomach for those picking strawberries. Their hard-earned money has been at risk.

“That work you see picking strawberries is back-breaking work and they do it day-after-day to help their families," said crew leader Jose Butron.

He oversees a group of pickers at a Plant City field.

Just last month, his boss alerted him that someone was sneaking onto the fields and robbing pickers as they worked the fields.

“That hurts," he said, "It really hurts because they work from sunrise to sunset.”

According to search warrants and arrest reports, the alleged burglars went to three strawberry fields and took backpacks, cell phones, cash, credit cards and personal documents. The burglaries happened at McGee, Keene and Sparkman and Wiggins roads in Plant City.

In one burglary, the documents states that a witness chased away the suspects.

Steve Allen Davis Jr., Dominique Marcus, Bruce Renner and Summer Jahn were arrested in connection to the burglaries.

“It’s shameful that people would take advantage of anyone in this community especially our migrant population," said Sheriff Chad Chronister of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

He calls it a crime of opportunity and not a targeted attack.

“When you see a bus, the windows are down, the doors are unlocked, there’s no one around the bus. They’re all out in the field working. It’s almost like an instant payday," said Chronister.

Chronister says migrants can make easy targets for criminals.

“It’s because they figure that they [migrants] are not going to report it because they have that fear of law enforcement,” Chronister said.

Chronister says it's encouraging for the victims to come forward. He points to HCSO's constant campaigning letting the Latino community know a victim is a victim, no matter their immigration status.

Butron tells ABC Action News, unfortunately, crimes against farm harvesters happen more often than you'd think.

“It’s upsetting," he said. "Because who knows what these victims needed the money for? If they needed it in Mexico for medicine, diapers…”

He says he’s since added a padlock to their bus. As an added security measure, he says his employer pays these workers on a debit card and not cash.

HCSO believes there are no other victims out there associated with this case.

The agency says over $1,000 was stolen and thousand in pesos and Honduran lempira. A portion of that money was returned to its rightful owners.