Four Florida Latinos have been arrested and charged with looting after Hurricane Ian, as hundreds of thousands of residents and business owners across the state seek to recover from the devastating storm.
Omar Mejía Ortiz, 33 years old; Valerie Celeste Salcedo Mena, 26; Brandon Mauricio Araya, 20, and Steve Eduardo Sánchez Araya, also 20, were arrested by Lee County Sheriff’s deputies for charges of burglary in a vacant structure during a state of emergency, according to prison records.
Brandon Araya and Steve Araya, as well as Mena, were also charged with grand theft. Ortiz was charged with petty theft.
All four were arrested a day before video surfaced of five people in handcuffs for looting a devastated section of Fort Myers, though it’s unclear if any of the four suspects charged with looting appear in the video.
As Floridians begin to rebuild their communities, residents have made it clear that they will protect properties in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
Florida officials, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, have warned against looting of empty homes and businesses after the Category 4 storm caused billions of dollars in damage.
“Don’t even think about looting. Don’t even think about taking advantage of people in this vulnerable situation. And so the local police are involved in monitoring that,” DeSantis said during a news conference on Friday.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno previously told would-be looters to “better think twice.”
“When I say zero tolerance, zero tolerance means we will hunt them down, we will track them down and they will take them to jail. If you’re lucky,” he said.
Four accused looters were released Saturday after posting $35,000 bail, according to official records. The death toll continues to rise and has surpassed 100 victims due to the strong winds and rains brought by Hurricane Ian last week and some homes are facing a month without power.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.