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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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After devastating theft, some hope
Two men search for tools among items recovered in a sting.
By RODNEY THRASH, Times Staff Writer
Published December 9, 2007
Carlos Velandia of New Tampa thanks the Hillsborough sheriff's deputies who helped recover his laptop.
[Melissa Lyttle | Times]
TAMPA - The headline in the morning newspaper gave Jerry Morris and Frank Ferrer a glimmer of hope.
"Theft victims may get stuff returned," it said.
It was the first piece of positive news they'd received in months. Back in July, somebody - maybe multiple somebodies - broke into Frank's business and robbed the place.
"Shut us down for a week," he said.
Jerry, his employee, has not worked since.
There were no guarantees Frank and Jerry's tools would be among the items Hillsborough sheriff's recovered during a yearlong sting operation in Seffner. Sheriff's deputies set up a pawn shop in hopes of taking illegal firearms off the street. They netted more than $2-million in stolen property.
Frank and Jerry decided to try their luck. Their livelihood depended on it.
They drove from Town 'N Country to the sheriff's facility on North Falkenburg Road. The Sheriff's Office held a public viewing there from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday.
Inside, a bevy of speakers, CD players, flat-screen televisions, DVD players, sparkling rims and iPods filled every corner.
Frank and Jerry stood in line with a couple from Seffner searching for the digital camera that contained pictures of their son's birth, first steps, first birthday party. They didn't find it.
They waited behind a tax specialist from New Tampa desperately looking for the company laptop with names, addresses and Social Security numbers of customers stored in it. He hit the jackpot: The computer was there.
Then came Frank and Jerry. Plainclothes deputies asked them for descriptions of their missing property, serial numbers, anything that would prove ownership.
They rattled off the list of items as best as they could. To understand Frank, you've got to understand the importance of his tools.
"That's like race cars to a race driver," he said. "You got to have them. It identifies who you are, how you work."
The tools had sentimental value, too. They belonged to his grandfather, whom he greatly admired.
Frank used them to rebuild and rig boats, to make a life for himself, to leave a legacy for his son. Four years ago, he opened Nautical Marine on Hillsborough Avenue, near the Veterans Expressway. It was always his dream to be an entrepreneur.
Frank had no insurance to replace the stolen items. Risky, he knows. But what's a small business owner to do? Rates are so high, the cost of insurance would have depleted any money the business brought in.
Sheriff's officials checked their inventory. They came back outside and broke the news to Frank and Jerry.