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$25,000 worth of cigarettes stolen from grocery store

Cigarettes stolen from Winn-Dixie

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Two men were arrested after hundreds of cartons and individual packs of cigarettes were stolen from a Winn-Dixie store in Marion County.

Miguel Nales, 50, and Juan Velez, 45, confessed to their involvement, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Detectives said Nales stole 275 cartons and 606 individual packs of cigarettes from the store located on US-441 and SR-326 in Ocala since October 2015. The cigarettes are valued at more than $25,000.

Nales is not an employee but a sub-contractor who works overnight at Winn-Dixie cleaning its floors. Detectives said he used a hidden compartment in a crate he brought with him to conceal 6-10 cartons of cigarettes each night he worked.

Detectives said they used surveillance to watch him and found he was selling the cigarettes to Velez.

Winn-Dixie issued a statement Wednesday about the theft:

“We take matters such as this very seriously because the trust and safety of our customers and associates is our highest priority. We sincerely appreciate the cooperation of Capt. Brian Dotton and the dedicated service of the entire Marion County Sheriff’s Office during their investigation into this matter.”

Detectives pulled Nales over in his vehicle on Tuesday and arrested him on charges of larceny and organized dealing in stolen property.

They also searched his home and recovered more than $2,100 worth of cigarettes and $1,900 cash.

"I'd like to congratulate our detectives on a job well done during this lengthy and thorough investigation," said Sheriff Chris Blair. "We appreciate our partnerships with Winn-Dixie and other local retailers that enable us to build strong cases against these individuals to ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for their crimes."