Car, Store Break-Ins Lead to Felony Charges in Jacksonville

Detectives allege three men in custody and a fourth who is at-large were responsible for break-ins at area Best Buy stores from Jacksonville to Ocala, The Florida Times-Union reports.

Jeffrey Lamont Platts, 32, William David Alonzo, 19, and Demarco A. Varnes-Appling, 21, have all been charged with burglary. Additionally, Varnes-Appling has been charged with
aggravated battery and aggravated assault against an officer, resisting an officer without violence, auto theft, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving, the newspaper reports. Detectives believe two other men are also involved.
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These are some serious allegations that can put these young men in prison for years and possibly decades, which is why hiring an aggressive Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney is so critical. The case reflects a piling on of the charges so often seen (and so often unwarranted) when dealing with defendants. Take the assault on a police officer and resisting arrest without violence charges. Which is it? Police have thrown the book at the defendant hoping something sticks.

According to the news report, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office worked the case for several months after reports of similar suspects breaking into the large electronics stores. Detectives say they caught the men in the act recently at a Jacksonville Best Buy, using covert deputies to hide in bushes and near the store waiting. According to the article, the men cased the store for five hours before breaking in around 3:30 a.m., by busting through a wall in the back.

People sometimes get burglary and robbery mixed up. Burglary is stealing something from a structure, while robbery is stealing from a person. While a burglary can be committed with a person present, it is typically charged when a business or vehicle is broken into and possessions are stolen. Therefore, the penalties for burglary are typically less than for robbery, but both charges are felonies and can be punished by prison time.

According to Florida Statute 810.02, there are different forms of burglary:

Burglary as a first-degree felony: If a person assaults someone during the crime, is armed during the crime, causes damage to property during the crime or uses a vehicle to damage property as part of the crime. It is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Burglary as a second-degree felony: If a person doesn’t assault someone and isn’t armed, but commits a burglary where a person is inside the dwelling or structure at the time. That crime is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Burglary as a third-degree felony: This is perhaps the most common type of burglary charge, which happens when someone breaks into an empty house or building. It is punished by up to 5 years in prison.

If a vehicle is stolen, under Florida Statute 812.014, the person can be charged with grand theft of an vehicle, which is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

It’s clear that these penalties are steep to serve as a deterrent to people who would consider breaking into homes, buildings or vehicles in order to steal. But being able to prove the charge is a whole other matter. Prosecutors sometimes have difficulty proving these charges unless law enforcement catches someone red-handed.

If they have to rely on co-defendants who have their own credibility issues, it can be advantageous to the defendant. Not making a statement is critical in these cases because they can be used against the defendant in court.


The Forbess Law Firm has been helping clients facing criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and are here to provide criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today through our website. Or call us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Resources:

Would-be rappers busted after string of Best Buy break-ins in Jacksonville area; 1 at large, by Dan Scanlan, The Florida Times-Union