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PCSO News Release

Media Contact:
Eleazer, Carrie

Public Information Officer 
News Date: 2/24/2016 

 PCSO Detectives Identify and Arrest Organized Retail Crime Suspects - Two Still At Large 


 

In February 2016, PCSO Organized Retail Crime detectives identified five suspects who have been working together to steal hundreds' of dollars worth of products from Polk County Lowes stores - two were arrested, and two are at large. 

According to their affidavits, 53-year-old Paul Hendrix of 993 Bay Avenue in Eagle Lake was observed by Lowes loss prevention officers and undercover PCSO detectives removing barcode stickers off of high-priced merchandise and swapping it with barcode stickers from much lower-priced merchandise, and then checking out. Hendrix was seen working with co-defendant 39-year-old Michael Dewitt of 306 Lake Millsite Road in Bartow 

The two were observed stealing merchandise in this fashion on the following dates and locations:

  • Feb 4, 2016 - Lowes at 700 3rd Street SW, Winter Haven; stole $190.00
  • Feb 15, 2016 - Lowes at 425 East Van Fleet Drive, Bartow; stole $242.00
  • Feb 17, 2016 - Lowes at 3525 Lakeland Highlands Rd, Lakeland; stole $50.00
  • Feb 17, 2016 - Lowes at 3600 US Hwy 98 North, Lakeland; stole $153.00
  • Feb 22, 2016 - Lowes at 37051 US Hwy 27 North, Haines City; stole $242.00

On Monday, February 22, 2016, PCSO detectives apprehended Hendrix and Dewitt, and booked them both into the Polk County Jail on the following charges: 

Hendrix:

  • Four counts Felony Petit Theft, 3rd or Subsequent Offense ($1,000 bond each count)
  • One count Obtaining Property by Fraud ($1,000 bond)
  • One count Possession of Meth ($1,000 bond)
  • One count Possession of Marijuana ($500 bond)
  • One count Possession of Drug Paraphernalia ($500 bond)

Hendrix has been in the Polk County Jail on 15 prior occasions, and his criminal history includes arrests for theft, DUI, drug possession, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, and resisting arrest. He's been to state prison twice. 

Dewitt:

  • One count Obtaining Property by Fraud 
  • One count Petit Theft

Dewitt has been in the Polk County Jail on 7 prior occasions, and his criminal history includes grand theft and drug possession. Some examples of the thefts include: 

On February 4, 2016, Hendrix walked into the aforementioned Lowes, removed a barcode sticker from a breaker box priced at $29.98, and put it onto a breaker box priced at $220.00. 

On February 15, 2016, Dewitt and Hendrix walked into the aforementioned Lowes, removed a barcode sticker from an item priced at $12.98 and placed it onto a repair kit priced at $64.98. They also replaced the barcode of a jump starter valued at $113.00 with a barcode for $49.98, and replaced barcodes on three different pieces of lumber priced at $33.46 each, with barcodes for lumber priced at $9.87 each. 

On February 22, 2016, Hendrix replaced the barcodes on amp breakers worth over $300.00 with barcodes on amp breakers worth approximately $50.00. 

The investigation is ongoing, and more charges are pending against both suspects. 

During the investigation, detectives also positively identified two other suspects who have been working with Hendrix and Dewitt in the organized retail theft of merchandise. The two suspects have Polk County Warrants for their arrests, for Grand Theft and Fraud, and they are: 

WANTED - Steven Pearson, DOB 8/31/75

 

WANTED - Lora Smith, DOB 6/15/86

 Lora may be with her boyfriend, Preston Whipp, who is considered a person of interest in this investigation: 

PERSON OF INTEREST - Preston Whipp
DOB 1/17/97

 If anyone has information on these suspects' whereabouts, they are urged to contact PCSO at 863-298-6200.

ANYONE WITH INFORMATION WHO WANTS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS AND BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CASH REWARD IS ASKED TO CALL
1-800-226-TIPS or LOG ONTO www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com
ANONYMITY IS GUARANTEED! iPhone and Droid users can download a free tip submit app to anonymously report crime. To install these free apps, please visit www.tipsoft.com.