Teen burglary ring exposed: Tech-savvy thieves target rental homes across region

Reporter: Kellie Miller
Published: Updated:

WINK News has uncovered a widespread burglary operation targeting rental properties. The masterminds behind this criminal scheme are teenagers. These tech-savvy youths have been stealing valuable appliances from homes for an extended period.

The story came to light when WINK News investigative reporter Kellie Miller discovered that one of the teenagers involved is being charged as an adult in Lee County.

According to an affidavit filed by the state attorney’s office, 17-year-old Woolf Exulus now faces 42 counts of burglary and grand theft, and he’s currently set to stand trial as an adult. Documents reveal that Woolf had accomplices. He, along with several others, used rently.com to gain access to numerous rental homes, where they scheduled self-guided tours and then made off with valuable appliances.

Since the start of 2023, law enforcement agencies across the state have painstakingly worked to unravel this intricate burglary ring devised by a group of kids.

“We’re constantly working with other agencies around the state to share information, and I think that’s what criminals forget,” said Josh Taylor, North Port Police Department’s public information officer. 

The teenage burglars operated across different counties, stealing refrigerators and stoves from rental properties. Their spree ultimately came to an end when they were apprehended in North Port.

“It was very much great police work, but also great community involvement,” Taylor said. 

The foundation of this scheme can be traced back to Lee County, where detectives say these teenagers pulled off at least 20 residential burglaries this year. 

“You had people that were going online, and basically taking a virtual tour of these different homes and being able to see exactly what type of appliances were in there,” Taylor said. 

The documents explain the burglars unique approach, targeting properties listed on rently.com. They created accounts, examined photos of homes, identified specific appliances, and scheduled self-guided tours.

“It’s definitely a window of opportunity for thieves looking for easy, easy targets,” Taylor said. 

The thieves got away with their rip offs for months, until their operation unraveled in North Port.

“It started with a tip from a resident who saw something that just didn’t seem right, and we were able to quickly look into it,” Taylor said. 

The investigation led them to a U-Haul filled with stolen appliances. North Port police took three teenagers into custody, including Woolf Exulus, who is now linked to many of the Lee County burglaries.

“If you come to North Port and you commit these types of crimes, you can be assured that we’re going to take the time to look into it,” Taylor said.

Ultimately, detectives believe these teenagers may have targeted homes not only in Lee County and North Port, but also St. Petersburg, and Orlando. WINK News reached out to rently.com and the property management companies affected, but none have agreed to an interview. Additionally, the fate of the other teenagers involved remains uncertain due to sealed juvenile records.

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