TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Last week, a number of power substations were targeted across Florida. 8 On Your Side learned that someone was breaking into substations, and turning off the power, all without harming any equipment.
Now, law enforcement officials say they may have a possible motive in at least one case and it might not be what you expect.
In one case, a Tampa Bay area agency tells 8 On Your Side that this likely was not terrorism.
Instead, the motive appears to be plain, old greed and a love for weed.
Marion County deputies allege three men broke into a marijuana dispensary shop in September.
According to the arrest reports, the trio targeted the “breaker box” of the store, turning off “multiple switches” before making entry.
Deputies say the plan was interrupted when a “loud audible alarm” went off.
The suspects were caught, each charged with felony burglary, according to the criminal complaint.
Now, police in Zephyrhills suspect the trio could be tied to one intrusion at a Duke Energy substation.
A police spokesperson tells 8 On Your Side they’re working on a warrant to charge the suspects in their case too.
Federal documents reveal, in total, half a dozen attacks where perpetrators forced entry into substations — the hub that transmits electricity into your home — and locked out equipment, causing an outage.
The incidents all happened in September, in Florida, at Duke Energy sites.
In a statement, the power giant tells 8 On Your Side, “We can’t comment on any ongoing legal proceedings or investigations. However, given the nature and scale of our operations, we – alongside federal, state and local law enforcement and security officials and industry partners – are continuously assessing and evolving our measures to protect our infrastructure from vandalism and other misconduct. That partnership includes helping bring to justice anyone who damages our system. We appreciate the work conducted in Florida by local, state and federal law enforcement in making an arrest.”
8 On Your Side reached out to the attorneys for all the men charged.
One lawyer responded stating charges are simply allegations.
The lawyer is only aware of the weed shop burglary, not any other allegations.
Pinellas, Pasco and Clearwater law enforcement officers have all confirm they have open and ongoing investigations.
If you have a tip, email investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com