Sting targets Tampa business accused of buying stolen batteries
TAMPA - Investigators seized more than 350 stolen batteries and arrested the manager at a business during a raid Tuesday that concluded a four-month undercover investigation, police said. Cash for Batteries, 8717 Nebraska Ave., is an unlicensed business and knowingly bought batteries stolen from other businesses, police said. The manager, Sophia Desire Gill, 26, of 13 Randolph Drive, Pensacola, is charged with one count of dealing in stolen property, two counts of purchasing restricted regulated metals without proof of ownership, four counts of failing to keep required records and two counts of purchasing property not transported in vehicle. Others have admitted to investigators that they sold stolen batteries to Cash for Batteries, police said. The property was removed from vehicle fleets or safety equipment at other businesses, police said.More than 50 tons of batteries have moved through Cash for Batteries since the investigation began, police said. During the four-month investigation, called "Operation Little Red Wagon," undercover officers were able to sell batteries to the business after telling company employees that the property was stolen, police said. On Tuesday, officers made their final undercover sale before seizing property, police said. It was the fourth time undercover officers sold batteries to the business after indicating the batteries were stolen. On two occasions, officers walked up to the business pulling batteries in a child's red wagon, police said. According to state law, batteries must be transported in a vehicle to guard against the sale of stolen batteries. Businesses must document every purchase of restricted regulated material such as batteries for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Also, the seller must provide a valid driver's license with a current address or valid state identification. The state also requires the seller to provide a thumb print. "This unlicensed business is circumventing the law when it buys property no questions asked," police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said in a news release. Charges are pending.