BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) - Some brazen thieves walked into a Bradenton pet store and left with $8,000 worth of snakes hidden in their hoodies.
Manatee County Sheriff's deputies are investigating the Monday afternoon theft at Petland Bradenton. The suspects got away with six snakes, including a 4-foot, red-tailed boa constrictor.
Stephen Benecke, one of the store's owners, told the Bradenton Herald (http://bit.ly/19MRuFH ) surveillance video showed one suspect had the hoodie wrapped around his neck with the boa constrictor inside.
Benecke says they didn't initially report the crime because they thought the snakes had escaped their habitat, which didn't have a lock. He says the video shows two men removing latches from the snake habitat while a woman apparently served as a lookout. One man then grabbed the larger snake and wrapped it in the hoodie. The other man was seen going back and forth several times to get the hatchlings.
Benecke said the habitat wasn't locked because no one thought someone would steal the snake.
"It was so brazen of this man to stick his hand in to get a snake he didn't know," Benecke said. "I deal with snakes every day and I would never do something like that."
The other stolen snakes were ball python hatchlings that were about 14-inches long.
When the thieves arrived at the store, a manager was at the cash register and a clerk was showing a puppy to a customer. Benecke said that by the time they noticed the snakes were gone, they thought they'd escaped.
Benecke said the thieves had the hoodies draped over their shoulders when they entered the store.
"Then they casually walked out with the snakes in their hoodies," he said. "This will be a tough case to solve because one boa looks the same as another."
Several hatchings went missing from the store a few weeks ago. Again, Benecke thought they'd escaped.
"Now we're wondering if it was the same people," Benecke said.
Information from: The Bradenton (Fla.) Herald , http://www.bradenton.com
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