Date: February 12, 2003 "For Immediate Release"
To: News Media
From: Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow, Jr.
Media Contact:

Carrie Rodgers, (863) 534-6217 OR (863) 819-1856, Pager

Deputies Arrest Lakeland Couple, Recover $100,000 in Stolen Computers 

Thanks to an alert Sheriff's Service Officer who noticed an unusual amount of computers being pawned throughout the county, Polk County Sheriff's Office detectives arrested a Lakeland couple last night (Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2003) on charges of Dealing in Stolen Property and Grand Theft Auto. As a result of the investigation, detectives recovered $100,000 worth of stolen computers.

The following were arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail:

  • Paul Avilla, DOB 3/13/76, of 403 Oakleaf Drive Apt. D in Lakeland, charged with Dealing in Stolen Property (4 counts), Grand Theft Auto (1 count), and Defrauding a Pawn Broker (4 counts).
  • Gena Avilla, DOB 8/15/78, of the same address, charged with Grand Theft Auto (1 count) and Dealing in Stolen Property (1 count).

In December of 2002, PCSO Pawn Compliance Officer Linda Reis was searching the Polk County pawn file database for a Dell laptop computer that had been stolen in an unrelated vehicle burglary being investigated by Detective  Mark Stroud.

While searching, Reis noticed Paul Avilla had been pawning numerous Dell laptop computers at various pawnshops throughout the county since September 2002.  Her investigation revealed the laptops belonged to Met-Life Insurance in Tampa. Reis contacted the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and spoke to Detective Stark, who told her of an ongoing case in which Met-Life had reported the theft of numerous laptop computers. Investigation revealed the computers being pawned in Polk matched those reported stolen from Met-Life.

HCSO Detective Stark and PCSO Detectives Mark Stroud and Cory Lanier made contact with the suspect at his home near Lakeland yesterday (2/11/03).  During a search of the suspect's storage shed, detectives discovered an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 worth of stolen computer equipment from multiple burglaries in Hillsborough County. In addition, a 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe stolen in Hillsborough County in May of 2001 was recovered at Avilla's residence.

The case is still under investigation and additional charges from Hillsborough County are pending.    

Distribution: Undersheriff, Division Commanders, Communications, News Media

A text only version of this release is also available.

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