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Two men and teen charged in thefts

By BILL VARIAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2000


CITRUS HILLS -- Deputies say they've ended a string of home construction site burglaries in the area with the arrests of two Hernando men and a teenager.

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office says the three stole thousands of dollars worth of windows, appliances, tar paper and other items, including a hot tub. The thefts allegedly took place between August 1999 and mid-March.

A Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said deputies have become more vigilant about patrolling construction sites in the wake of the reports.

"This has put everyone on alert to be on the lookout for this type of activity," said Ronda Hemminger Evan, a public information officer for the agency.

Anthony Cook, 16, and Levi B. Hoff, 20, were arrested April 4, and again April 12.Each is charged with three counts of burglary to a structure, three counts of trespassing on property other than a structure or conveyance, three counts of grand theft and two counts of dealing in stolen property. The Sheriff's Office said they worked as a team.

In a separate arrest April 11, deputies charged Carl R. Barth, 32, of Hernando, with one count of grand theft and trespassing on property other than a structure or conveyance. Deputies say he stole a Jacuzzi from a Hernando construction site and installed it at his own home on E Barth Court in Hernando.

Barth told deputies that his wife paid for the Jacuzzi and had receipts, according to his arrest report. But the report said deputies had talked to his wife, who provided a written statement that her husband and a friend delivered the hot tub to their home sometime in August 1999.

The hot tub was recovered and returned to Nature Coast Pools in Lecanto.

The Sheriff's Office says Cook and Hoff stole a variety of items from homes under construction in Citrus Hills and Canterbury Estates. The stolen items included an oven and a dishwasher, along with doors, windows and other building supplies.

Several of the items were sold to other people, were recovered and have been returned to Citrus Hills Construction. Cook and Hoff admitted at least one of the thefts, according to their arrest reports.

Citrus Hills Construction did not return a phone call. Larry Tate, a builder for Sweetwater Homes, listed as one of the victims, said thefts at construction sites are relatively common. He said neighbors and his own employees often report suspicious activity, which is then reported to authorities.

"We've stepped up watching our job sites," Tate said. "We prosecute anyone we catch."

Barth was released from the Citrus County Detention Facility the day of his arrest after posting bail of $500. Hoff posted $7,500 bail and was released. Cook is being held at a Marion County detention facility until a juvenile court arraignment April 25, said Assistant State Attorney Jeffery Smith.

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