7News viewer helps police catch Little Havana pawn shop scammer

MIAMI (WSVN) - A thief who switched a gold chain for a fake before receiving cash at a pawn shop in Little Havana has been caught thanks to an alert 7News viewer who recognized him and contacted police.

That 7News viewer, Ray Corral, was out having dinner when he said he spotted the man who looked like the same individual caught on camera trying to get away with some fast cash.

The crime happened at the Esmeralda Joyeria pawn shop on Southwest First Street, near 12th Avenue, Tuesday afternoon.

Surveillance caught the moment when the man entered the pawn shop and presented a gold chain to the employee. The employee estimated that the chain was worth $670 and handed the chain back to the man. That’s when he switched the real gold chain out for a fake one and left the store with the money.

Corral said he was watching the 7News 6 p.m. newscast, Tuesday evening, and spotted the man from the video on Lincoln Road, in Miami Beach. He then watched the story again online for confirmation. “As I’m sitting down, I see this guy pass by with the same hat, same shirt, same everything,” Corral said, “and I clicked on that pawn shop. I looked at it, and I verified the way his ID, and the way he looked and his tattoos, and it was the same guy.”

He called Miami Beach Police, and they then arrested 34-year-old Hector Rodriguez, who is from Chicago.

The store owners are thankful that Corral notified the police. “You guys made it happen,” said co-owner Marlene Cabrera. “I mean if it [hadn’t] been for the audience, people calling in, he would still be out there.”

“How quickly Channel 7 covered the story, aired it and a couple hours later, he was out having dinner with the same clothes on,” Corral said. “The fact that you guys put a story and put it on the web so quickly was key. If the guy had a change of clothes and maybe changed his hat, I would have never recognized him.”

Rodriguez is now being charged with grand theft. His bond was set at $5,000.

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