State investigators are looking for a man who they say has stolen hundreds of fire extinguishers from businesses in Hialeah and Miami.
The “scam artist’s” modus operandi? Posing as a fire extinguisher dealer, according to Florida’s fire marshal office.
For the last few months, the unidentified thief has gone door to door telling business owners that he’s there to service their extinguishers. Most of the time, he takes off with the safety devices, which are worth $50 to $100 each, said Ruben Cantillo, an investigator with the state’s Bureau of Fire Prevention.
“If he doesn’t steal them, he tells company owners he inspected it and says he’ll give them a discount if they pay cash,” Cantillo said. “He’s a menace to society.”
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The man is believed to be using the alias Hector Gonzalez, officials said.
Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer who also services as state fire marshal, called the man a scam artist. He told the Miami Herald “this kind of fraud not only scams businesses out of money, but it puts Floridians in major danger.”
“If fire extinguisher equipment is not properly inspected and even tampered with, it could cause property damage and loss of life,” Patronis said, noting that “legitimate fire suppression equipment dealers are certified and carry company credentials.”