Longboat housekeeper steals Prada wallet, pawns 90 items

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Longboat Police Lieutenant Bob Bourque believes scores of Longboat Key residents may be missing their stolen jewelry and not even know it’s gone.

That belief follows a confession by Palmetto resident Michelle Wood that she stole a Prada wallet worth $2,000 and dozens of jewelry items from customers where she was employed as a housekeeper on Longboat Key.

The case unfolded when a Sutton Place resident noticed she was missing her Prada billfold and some jewelry. The resident realized there was no evidence of forced entry into her mid-key condominium and she immediately suspected her cleaning employee, Wood.

Wood is the daughter of Donna Jones, whom was originally hired to clean before her daughter took over the job several months ago. The victim called Jones and according to Police, told the mother that she believed her daughter had stolen the items and told her she would not elevate the issue if they were returned. According to Bourque, the victim’s request was met with nothing more than denial.


Confession made

The victim called the Longboat Key Police Department on Dec. 21, 2018 and Bourque started a theft investigation. As is customary in such cases, Bourque made a sweep of area pawn shops and their records showed a Prada wallet and other items were pawned by Wood on June 21, 2018.

“We got lucky the wallet was still there. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Prada wallets in the world, and so we had to use the information to help us get a confession,” said Bourque.

When Wood was called by police on the phone, she denied any involvement. The police asked her into the station for an interview and her story changed.

“In the interview she tied herself verbally into knots and said she didn’t do anything and after we showed pictures of her taken from video of her pawning items, she ended up confessing not only to the Prada wallet, but she said that half of the 98 pieces of jewelry she had pawned she had stolen,” said Bourque.

That confession was made by Wood on Jan. 3, of 2019, but the police did not arrest her at that point. Subsequently the police did write an arrest warrant of an item valued over $300, dealing in stolen property and defrauding a pawn broker.

She turned herself in the following Sunday.

Part of the dilemma for Bourque is although Wood has confessed to stealing half of the pawned items, which likely all came from Longboat Key residences, specific proof is necessary to recover them from the pawn brokers. Wood says she does not know which items were stolen or from where, but just knows in general she stole about half of them. At the time of her arrest, she had about 30 customers both at the Sutton Place Community and especially at Longboat Harbour.

Bourque urges property owners who employed either Wood or Jones, to check their jewelry inventory and come forward immediately if they hope to recover anything.

By law, a pawn shop only has to hold property for 30 days before it gains ownership of a pawned item and is allowed to send it to the general public. Bourque was able to have a hold placed on all 98 pieces of pawned jewelry for 90 days from when the arrest was made last month.

If someone is missing jewelyry, but cannot prove their ownership, the victim can pay what the pawn shop paid Woo for the item and get it back.

Bourque urges anyone who employed Wood to call him at 941-316-1973.

As an additional note, Bourque said that in additional weekly cleaning, Wood and her mother, Jones, performed seasonal cleaning as well. Jones is not suspected of any jewelry theft, but her daughter helped her and worked many of the jobs.

Although the majority of housekeeprs, landscapers, contractors and other employees have access to homes are honest and hardworking says Bourque, “some criminals sneak in.”

The kind of crime, theft and crimes of opportunity are the most common criminal event on Longboat Key. Police suggest homeowners lock up their belongings and do not let employees go room to room by themselves. For cleaning people and those who come into the house it is more complicated, says Bourque, but he suggests employees’ names be checked through a Google search to see if there is anything derogatory. Another suggestion is to go to the Manatee or Sarasota County Clerk of Court websites to check criminal history.

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