Tobacco store trashed; $400K worth of merchandise stolen - FOX 13 News

Tobacco store trashed; $400K worth of merchandise stolen

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It's the American Dream torn to shreds: A Tampa family-owned business was burglarized earlier this month. Thieves destroyed what they didn't want.

The owner of Sweet Times Tobacco wishes to remain anonymous, but she says thieves stole more than $400,000 in inventory in the early morning hours of September 22nd.

"It was empty. It was a disaster area. All of our papers, all of our shelves, everything was just thrown all over the place. The product they did not take they damaged," she said Monday.

A brand-new line of electronic cigarettes was eliminated entirely.

"They didn't leave not one cigarette. Everything was gone, taken," she said.

The group of crooks were caught on surveillance cameras entering the warehouse facility, off 56th Street near Temple Terrace. Their faces were covered as they pried open a security gate and entered and exited in two white Ford utility vans.

"It was well planned out. They knew they'd need help. They knew the type of vehicle they needed," Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's Cristal Nunez said Monday.

With a theft this large, investigators believe they likely have a buyer already lined up.

"Our detectives think they're possibly shipping them to other areas. They could be shipping them to Miami or wherever or they could have someone that they're supplying to," Nunez said.

Still, even this hurdle won't stop the owners of Sweet Time Tobacco from supplying products to their 1,800 customers. They're trying their best to rebuild. But they're now pleading to the public to help catch those responsible for destroying years of hard work.

"Think about how hard you're working to feed your family. Put yourself in our shoes. What would you do, when you work so hard to make something of yourself and someone comes and rips it apart?" she said.

The suspects are described as five white or Hispanic men. Detectives believe they were driving a white Ford Club Wagon and Ford E250.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).

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