WALTON COUNTY, Fla. — Four individuals have been arrested following an investigation into the alleged theft of over $1 million worth of jewelry from a business in Walton County.
According to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), the four suspects were apprehended in Missouri. The WCSO said the suspects are Romanian nationals connected to an organized criminal network.
The WCSO said on the afternoon of April 11, three individuals, including two females and one male, entered a store on 30A stealing numerous pieces of jewelry with a retail value of more than $1 million.
The three reportedly fled from the area in a black SUV following the theft.
A WCSO investigator responding to the scene said he recognized the suspects from a December 2022 case he worked on in which a Rolex watch was reportedly stolen from a Miramar Beach jeweler using a sleight-of-hand technique. The same three individuals, plus another male, were persons of interest.
A week after the theft on 30A, the black SUV was reported abandoned at a business on Serenoa Road in Santa Rosa Beach. Investigators were able to speak to a woman who had given three individuals a ride from the area after they claimed their car had broken down.
Reportedly, one of the suspects had used his phone to communicate with her after she dropped them off. All three matched the description of the suspects, the WCSO said.
According to the WCSO, video surveillance later confirmed it was the same three individuals who had committed the theft on 30a.
An investigator with WCSO submitted a warrant for tracking the cell phone and was connected to a New York Police Department detective through a retired NYPD officer who works with the WCSO.
The NYPD detective, along with a police officer in the United Kingdom, was able to confirm with the WCSO Investigator the group was part of a Romanian criminal network with more than 1400 members in the United States with warrants in more than half a dozen states, the WCSO said.
The suspects are George Paun, 31, Stela Sava, 26, Terca Tarnovan, 31, and Vasile Lacatus, 27, all Romanian nationals.
On April 24, the cell phone belonging to Vasile reportedly led investigators to a home in St. Charles, Missouri. All four were located and arrested, charged with grand theft over $20,000, grand theft in concert with one or more person for the Rolex theft in 2022.
Sava, Tarnovan, and Lacatus also have warrants for grand theft over $100,000, grand theft in concert with one or more person for the merchandise stolen at the store on 30A.
Additional jurisdictions across the country are continuing their investigations into these suspects, including the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and multiple state and local agencies.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office thanked the St. Charles Police Department (MO), New York Police Department, and Northumbria Police Department in the United Kingdom for their assistance in identifying and apprehending the suspects.