ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A thief is making the rounds in St. Augustine, but he isn't targeting big money stores.
Instead he's stealing from the trusting owners of mom & pop stores.
"All he needs is a minute, he is real quick. Sue [my wife] had just stepped out and and as soon as she did, he sprinted more or less to the cash register and opened it and headed out the front door," tells Steve Marrazzo with Simple Gestures.
Simple Gestures is one of several businesses hit. Not far down A1A, Southern Horticulture's worker Lauri also encountered the thief.
"He was left up at the front office and he says 'oh I will just look around'," she says.
When Lauri was in another part of the store, the man opened the register, took a handful of the larger bills and ran out.
"It is a trauma to know you have been invaded and taken advantage of," tells Steve.
Ever since Steve started calling other businesses and posting his story on Facebook to warn others of the scheme, he says more and more owners are coming forward saying they've encountered this man too.
The thief also allegedly hit S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue, a charity that saves pets from euthanasia.
"We hang on by a shoe string and that is money we could be using to save animals," says worker Kathryn Hawkins.
Some places say they have even been hit twice with the same scheme, but the second time it was women instead of a man.
"One of the other robberies, it was two girls and they wore fedoras because they knew they had security cameras," says Steve.
The St. Johns County Sheriff's office and St. Augustine Police are aware of the thefts, but only have a basic suspect description of the suspect.
The owners that FCN spoke to said the man is around 5'9" to 5' 10" with an athletic build, medium hair cut and often talks on his cell phone while in the store.
Steve Marrazzo says shop owners need to start locking their registers and though he still trusts people who come into his store, he is more wary.
"I don't like the feeling of looking outside before I close up, I never did that before. I'm locking my register, I have been here for 18 years and never done that," tells Steve.
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office says if you believe someone has stolen from your business you must report it right away.
Also, always lock your register and consider investing in security cameras.
First Coast News