Thanks to a prudent taxi driver and a highly qualified contestant for America's Dumbest Criminals, one Florida mortgage company won't be completing insurance claim forms.
Around 4 a.m. Tuesday of last week, cab driver Kris Bronson picked up a fare at an auto parts store in Lakeland, Fla. Little did Bronson know the destination would turn into the scene of a burglary, according to a police report, and that he would be the core witness sending a suspect to jail.
"We see a lot of things," Bronson said, referring to cab drivers' daily experiences, but "I have never been in any trouble [scene], and I want to keep it that way."
The fare, Leslie Jones, 41, eventually directed Bronson to the rear entry of Ameritech Mortgage on 1803 Salem Road. Jones told Bronson to wait for him and then loaded large plastic bags of items into the cab, according to the police report.
Bronson said Jones told him he was moving his things out of the business, but his suspicion heightened when a police car drove by and Jones shut the cab's trunk, got in the cab, asked him to drive away, and then shortly after the police was out of sight, stepped out of the cab again.
The cab driver called his dispatcher and requested a traffic stop. They were on their way to a "real bad part of town," when the taxi cab was pulled over by the police, Bronson said.
Jones told the police officer he was helping Ameritech move possessions into a storage, according to Lakeland police spokesman Jack Gillen. Jones was arrested on burglary and grand theft charges and is being held in the Polk County jail, which said Jones is not bondable and will remain incarcerated possibly until his next court date. According to the Polk County courthouse, Jones has a court date Sept. 8 for a case prior to his recent arrest.
The bags found in the cab were full of computer equipment, and "basically everything that wasn't nailed down" in the mortgage shop, including a vacuum cleaner, Gillen said, adding that the items were worth between $15,000 to $20,000.
"It doesn't happen very often, that we lock up silly people like this," Gillen said, pointing out that he has never encountered such an incident -- burglars usually have their own transportation, "he could have stolen a car and then the equipment, which is usually the way its done."
Gillen said he was looking into sending the case to America's Dumbest Criminals.
According to the police report, the suspect gained access to the mortgage shop, which did not have an alarm system, by kicking the shop's air conditioning unit through the wall, climbing through the opening, and unlocking the door from inside the shop.
Ameritech picked up its belongings at the police station the day after the burglary, Gillen said.