Stolen turtles have since been returned to their homes.
Surveillance footage is what helped The Lee County Sheriff’s Office catch Jermaine Wofford, 47. He is accused of stealing 18 turtles valued at $30,000 from a Southwest Florida turtle breeder.
Marcus Cantos is the owner of Turtle Source. “I just had this sick, sick feeling. I felt nauseous the whole time,” said Cantos.
But, according to him, this wasn’t a random theft. Cantos says Wofford was supposed to be fixing a beverage cooler. “He needed a part, so he was going to come back when you get the part in. After the first time he left, we noticed a couple of things missing. But we didn’t make the connection with the guy,” Cantos said.
When Cantos came back, he noticed that the office turtle named “Huncy” was among the missing. That’s when they decided to check the surveillance video.
“The camera is right up here, not hard to see, and the guy looked right in the camera, and that’s how the sheriff’s department was able to use the facial recognition, and he was just helping himself to all of these,” said Cantos.
After LCSO investigated, it was just a matter of time before getting Wofford back on the property before they were able to arrest him. “They kind of coached us on having them return. We were supposed to come back anyway,” Cantos said.
Now, Marcus Cantos is ending a message to other business owners. “Check credentials as people come in. Verify that the place is legit, and then you should be fine. But if not, you’re like us, careless, and stuff goes bad,” he said.
Deputies were able to recover five of the 18 turtles in Hillsborough County. Cantos says he lost about $20,000.
Wofford’s bond has been set at $50,000.