VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) – Detectives with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office are investigating after a 68-year-old woman’s lifelong possessions disappeared from a storage facility in Venice.
Tracy Smart says since 2014, her mother spent nearly $10,000 with Big Jim Self Storage on Tamiami Trail in Venice to keep her belongings safe after falling ill. Smart is her mother’s full-time caretaker. They live almost nine hours away in the Florida Panhandle.
It was back in June when Smart says she noticed the storage facility stopped withdrawing the automatic monthly payments from her mother’s account. When she called the facility to find out why, she says an employee told her the account in her mother’s name was closed and the unit was emptied out back in March.
Smart and her mother were perplexed and devastated.
“We weren’t there, we didn’t sign anything, we didn’t close this account, we didn’t say stop taking money out of our accounts,” said Smart. “I was told the procedure is to have somebody show an ID and sign when they close the unit and take all of the contents out. Well, they apparently looked at somebody’s ID but didn’t really look at it because they couldn’t tell me who it was and the signature was illegible and they didn’t make a copy of it, nothing.”
The family photos, antique china, passed down jewelry and other family heirlooms were gone.
“My grandmother’s wedding ring was in there, sadly – my dead brother’s guitar that I was supposed to give to his son was in there, all my family photos were in there,” said Smart. “All the things that were supposed to be passed down to me and my kids, all the things my kids made for her when they were growing up was in there and it’s all gone and they can’t tell me why or when or what happened other than somebody signed for it on March 11 and it’s gone.”
8 On Your Side contacted the company’s corporate office Thursday asking about the protocol in place when someone closes an account, how this could have happened and what the company is going to do to work with the family. A representative acknowledged receiving our message but, as of 5 p.m. Thursday, we haven’t received any answers.
The company’s website states, “Big Jim Self-Storage has perfected its methods, and services to give you ideal self-storage solutions for everything important to you. Household goods, vital documents – you can always trust us to take every precaution, every day, so you can be sure your items will be there, safe and sound when you return.”
Smart says no dollar amount will ever be able to replace what has been taken from her family but she wants someone to be held accountable.
“Somebody dropped the ball and I get – mistakes happen. I am the first person to say I am not perfect…I have made many mistakes but please, there’s a woman here who is devastated and I have to see it every day,” said Smart.
At the very least, Smart says she would like for the company to refund her mother the money she spent at the facility.
“They just wrote her off like she was nothing and I am unwilling to accept that,” she said.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says its investigation into this grand theft case is active and ongoing.
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