CLEARWATER -- Four people are facing federal charges after authorities said they stole rent checks totaling $400,000 from apartment complexes throughout Florida, including Bradenton.
The suspects are identified as Yensy Guevara, 35; Juan Carlos Miranda Noda, 28; Heysy Puente Lopez, 28; and Lazaro Velazques, 28. Guevara is from Clearwater, while the other three suspects are from Tampa.
According to Clearwater police, the arrests are the result of a two-year investigation into the thefts in 2013.
Investigators said the suspects stole from apartment complexes in Sarasota, Bradenton, Clearwater, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Gainesville and Fort Myers. Police said the suspects targeted as many as 15 apartment complexes in Clearwater alone.
Police said the suspects stole rent payments from night drop boxes at apartment complexes, using a coat hanger-type device with a sticky substance on the end. They would dispose of the rent checks and alter money orders with their names before cashing them or depositing them in their own accounts, police said.
The number of victims is estimated to be about 300, with a total monetary loss of $400,000, police said.
The investigation was a joint effort involving the Clearwater Police Department, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Secret Service.