A 30-year-old Sarasota woman has been charged with felony theft after being observed stealing the property of beachgoers on Coquina Beach.
Paige Steele was arrested March 24 and further charges may be pending after she allegedly told Holmes Beach police investigators that the stolen items found in her possession were gifted by beachgoers to her two children, both of whom Steele had with her at the beach.
The HBPD police officer was on routine patrol at Coquina Beach when he was contacted by a lifeguard, who asked the officer to climb up the lifeguard tower to observe what he said was suspicious behavior.
The officer observed Steele pick up a beach bag. The officer confronted Steele on the beach, at which time other witnesses came forward to tell police Steele had made several trips from the beach to the parking lot.
Steele was escorted to the parking lot, where police made contact with an elderly gentleman waiting for Steele in a vehicle. The man told police he had given Steele and her children a ride to the beach but he was not strong enough to accompany them.
The man said he knew nothing of Steele’s activities.
Police gained permission to search the vehicle’s trunk, at which time several items were located, including a beach bag containing an iPad valued at $800.
Police found stored phone numbers on the iPad and made contact with the owner, who said it had been stolen off the beach.
According to the police report, Steele tried several times to tell police that her daughter was given the items. When police stopped responding to Steele’s version of the story, she allegedly became belligerent.
Police charged Steele with felony and misdemeanor theft and she was booked into the Manatee County jail. Bond was set at $1,000 for the felony charge and $120 for the misdemeanor charge.
According to the report, the case also has been turned over to Child Protective Services because Steele attempted to use her children in the course of a crime.
The elderly gentleman was not charged and was allowed to leave with the children.
According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office website, Steele posted bond the same day and was released.
She was scheduled for arraignment 9 a.m. April 20.