AVENTURA, FLA. (WSVN) - - Aventura Police slammed the brakes on three men’s Thanksgiving weekend crime spree when they caught them trying to break into shoppers’ cars, a discovery that led officers to a minivan filled with stolen Black Friday goodies.
Photographs of the white minivan show the vehicle filled with just-purchased goodies. The trunk was filled with trendy boutique bags, and next to a rear passenger seat, a Louis Vuitton bag sat on top of a Sony Bravia LED flat-screen.
“It’s a huge deal for us,” said Aventura Police Sgt. Chris Goranitis. “Like I said, [there were] a lot of undercover units out there, and usually, these individuals were in and out in seconds.”
Black Friday hot deals became hot steals as, investigators believe, the trio targeted tourists at area malls in Broward and Miami-Dade counties who kept making return trips to their cars to leave purchases. When the customers went back to continue snapping up holiday bargains, that’s when the crooks made their move.
The car break-ins came to an end after officers spotted the suspects trying to punch out a vehicle’s windows at a shopping plaza in Aventura, Friday night. They were identified as Juan Carlos Flores, Christopher Jaraba and Cristan Bustamante.
Additional photos showed the recovered merchandise nearly spilling out of two tables.
“When the officers inventoried the vehicle, they right away noticed that there were things taken from several cases, and luckily, some of the cases were actually from that day, so we were actually able to reunite victims with their property,” said Goranitis.
As the holiday shopping season kicks into gear, Goranitis advised shoppers to observe caution when returning to their vehicles. “The best thing that you can do, especially during the holidays, is just be constantly aware of your surroundings,” he said.
Especially when there are so many Grinches out there driven to steal. “Unfortunately, a lot of tourists, they come in, they go from store to store, and they use the car as a storage facility, basically,” said Goranitis. “They’re putting things in the car for storage and going on shopping.”
Police believe the trio targeted customers at Aventura Mall, Dolphin Mall and Sawgrass Mills Mall, among other shopping centers. Multiple agencies are involved in the ongoing investigation.
The suspects are facing a series of charges as long as a shopping list.
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