Burglars in Halloween masks strike Tampa Bay area stores

Authorities are on the lookout for a group of masked men

ELLENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Investigators believe a group of burglars in Halloween masks went on a crime spree across the Tampa Bay area. Authorities in multiple counties are on high alert after a string of bold burglary attempts.

On Sunday four men ran toward a Metro PCS in Port Charlotte. They wore hoodies and Halloween masks as they tried to break inside, but soon took off.

An hour and a half later, an eerily similar crime happened at the Puma outlet store in Ellenton. In that case, the thieves stole thousands of dollars in merchandise.

“That was about an hour away. It’s very possible this could’ve occurred down there,” Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Randy Warren said.

Officials say the thieves likely used a tool to get inside the Ellenton store, and the surveillance video shows them men in Port Charlotte did virtually the same thing. “This could be something that these suspects do; they’re looking for doors that maybe fit the ability to penetrate and maybe get in,” Warren said.

Customer Jeri Reif feels it’s important to be cautious while shopping. Reif even keeps her purse secure while in the car. “I’m watchful of the people around me. I make sure my doors are locked all the time,” she said.

There were crimes throughout the country this week involving thugs in Halloween costumes. Officials say the upcoming holiday makes it convenient for these crooks. “Character masks are more readily available and that could be something that they’re getting their hands on,” Warren said.

Deputies want to track down these masked mystery men before they strike again. The men took off in luxury cars, including a white Audi SUV, silver Porsche SUV and a black European-style sedan.

If you know anything about these crooks, call Crime Stoppers.

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