Concerns raised over stolen trailers in Charlotte County

Reporter: Annalise Iraola Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Nearly a year after Hurricane Ian, hundreds of trailers are waiting with nobody inside.

Driving past Airport Road in Punta Gorda, you’ll see trailers staring back at you. Now, four people are sitting in jail, and are accused of stealing resources from Hurricane Ian victims.

Nineteen campers and other equipment valued at over $1M were stolen and sold to the highest bidders. But one of the suspects is still on the run.

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said Yosmel Betancourt helped steal from Hurricane Ian victims.

FEMA said the area the trailers are in is a staging lot for the State of Florida’s inventory, and it might look like the lot stays the same, but trailers and campers rotate as needed.

A chain link fence and a no trespassing sign weren’t enough to keep five thieves from breaking in. Determined to make a buck taking from people down on their luck.

People like Karen Coburn, whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Ian, are sleeping in a FEMA trailer in Englewood. This ends up as just another gut punch.

“I literally makes me sick to my stomach because people are counting on that they need that they’ve been living, topsy turvy since the hurricane, unsure of what they’re going to do or how they’re going to make it and they were relying on that,” said Coburn.

WINK News learned FEMA the staging lot is for state-owned trailers only. It is to make it easier for families in need to get housing quickly.

The arrest warrant details how the suspects were able to steal trailers in the early morning or late evening hours without being noticed.

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office says approximately 15 of the 19 trailers were stolen from the lot.

“We’re still out searching for the remaining trailers. So hopefully in the end of this, we’ll be able to recover some more,” said Sergeant Christopher James Kearney from CCSO.

Four suspects are in jail and will be back in court in October.

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