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Looting in Lee County in Ian's wake finds several facing varied charges

Special to WGCU
Some of the items suspected looters were allegedly caught with recently at the Sanibel Outlets.

Several instances of looting in the past few days in areas affected by Hurricane Ian have been reported by the Lee County Sheriff's Office with a number of arrests made.

Two men from the Homestead, Florida area were charged after they were apprehended in the Fort Myers Beach area.

“Those who prey on vulnerable victims during a state of emergency will be charged to the fullest extent,” stated Sheriff Carmine Marceno. “I’ve said it several times; you may walk in, but we’ll carry you out.”

Ernesto Pedroso Martinez, 34, and Noel Morales,54, claimed to assist in the cleanup from the hurricane but were were observed allegedly stealing items from in front of a local business, and loading them into a trailer.

West district deputies found the trailer in the area with both men inside, who were detained. A search of the trailer found all of the victim's property and was recovered and returned to him.

Both men face grand theft charges and Morales also faces a battery charge. They remain in Lee County Jail, Morales on $35,000 bond and Pedrosa Martinez on $25,000 bond.

Special to WGCU
A trailer driver by two men from the Homestead, Florida, area contained alleged stolen goods. The men were charged after they were apprehended in the Fort Myers Beach area.

Six people, including a 14-year-old girl, traveled from Broadway Avenue in Fort Myers to the Tanger Outlets, where they allegedly stole high-end sneakers and other items. The six were booked in the Lee County Jail and charged with burglary.

There have been other reports of looting, including one instance on Fort Myers Beach where several people were arrested after they were caught allegedly taking alcohol and other items.

While a curfew imposed in Lee County after an instance of looting during the hurricane was reported, a similar curfew remains in effect in Charlotte County, effective from 10 p.m. - 6 a.m.

The agency said the curfew is being strictly enforced with several arrests made of people in violation. Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell said some areas have not streetlighting yet, making travel difficult and dangerous.

"In addition, we have also seen a substantial increase in reported crime, and these are not just in areas where power has not yet been returned," Prummell said. "My deputies have found many individuals out after curfew and with nefarious intent. The curfew is an additional measure that provides my deputies with an effective tool to help protect persons and property."

Travel directly to and from work, school, or the airport are allowed. Documentation should be ready to show if asked.

The Collier County Sheriff's Office reminded residents that curbside picking of discarded items in the right of way is not looting and curbside picking through debris and discarded household items in the right of way is not considered looting or theft by law.

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