MANATEE -- Law enforcement officers late Wednesday arrested two Palmetto men they say are responsible for a recent string of smash-and-grab burglaries at convenience stores throughout the region, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
About 11:30 p.m., officers from a specially formed multi-agency task force saw Louis A. Rivera, 47, and Scott H. Thibodeau, 29, drive to a BP gas station at 6812 14th St. W., Bradenton. Rivera got out of a car driven by Thibodeau and use a hammer to smash the front door of the business, according to a news release.
Once inside, he pried open the cash register, when he was greeted by officers. He and Thibodeau were arrested, according to the report.
Both were charged with burglary, criminal mischief and possession of burglary tools. Thibodeau was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
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Officials said several more burglary charges will be filed in coming days by officials in Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee and Desoto counties investigating more than 20 similar break-ins recently at other convenience stores.
In the burglaries, some of which were captured by security cameras, hooded suspects driving a gold Saturn station wagon smashed the front doors of small stores and stole cigarettes and other small items, according to the sheriff's office.
In some instances, the security cameras captured images of Rivera and Thibodeau, according to the report.
The task force, made up of officers from the Manatee and Sarasota sheriff's office and the Palmetto Police Department, was formed to monitor their activities, according to the Manatee sheriff's office.
Rivera and Thibodeau were being held at the Manatee County jail on bonds totaling $8,750 each.
Two female passengers found in the suspects' car Wednesday have not been charged.