Crime

A Miami Beach landlord stole from tenant’s apartment, cops say, then tried extortion.

Surveillance video taken from Miami Massage Therapy cameras show a woman, identified by police as Valentina Zaeta, removing items from an apartment.
Surveillance video taken from Miami Massage Therapy cameras show a woman, identified by police as Valentina Zaeta, removing items from an apartment.

Surendra Reddy was in his room in the Miami Beach apartment he shares with his roommate, Claudia Pimentel, when he heard someone enter their apartment. A few minutes later he heard the door slam.

Reddy looked out of his window and saw their landlord, Valentina Zaeta, outside of the apartment holding something he couldn’t quite make out against her chest.

He then walked into Pimentel’s room and noticed her laptop missing, according to a police report. He quickly called her.

On Wednesday, Miami Beach police charged Zaeta, who is sub-leasing the apartment in the 1500 block of Bay Road to Pimental and Reddy, with burglary and grand theft.

According to the police report, on Dec. 18 Zaeta took a laptop computer valued at $800, an $1,800 Louis Vuitton bag with red stitching, a $200 Michael Kors wallet and a Tag luggage bag valued at $100, along with credit cards, Pimentel’s social security card and $500 in cash.

Security video facing the apartment’s front door from Miami Massage Therapy, a business next to Pimentel’s apartment, caught the incident and was obtained by Pimentel on Thursday. She called police to look at the video.

According to the police report, the footage shows Zaeta, 34, and an unknown female looking in both directions as they exit a van in front of the building and then use a key to enter the apartment.

The women walked out with luggage, miscellaneous items, and Zaeta holding a laptop computer.

“It’s not just bold, it’s a violation of someone’s privacy,” Shane Molinaro of Miami Massage Therapy told CBS4.

Making matters worse for Zaeta, who is from Italy and has lived in South Florida for less than a year, according to NBC6, is that police have audio of her trying to extort money from Pimentel to return her belongings.

Pimental victim
Claudia Pimentel told CBS4 and Miami Beach police that her apartment had been burglarized by her landlord. She said Valentina Zaeta stole items worth thousands, along with $500 cash.

“Regardless of anything, you don’t have the right to enter anyone’s place and rob them and steal their things. Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you? And then try to extort them,” Pimentel told CBS4.

After police got the surveillance footage, Zaeta called Pimentel and said that she was in possession of her property and was willing to return the items in exchange for cash. Audio of the phone call was captured on Officer Antonio Ferbeyre’s body camera.

“Do I feel safe? Absolutely not,” Pimentel said. “She sent some hooligan to come shake me up or try to get money from me last night. I haven’t been home. I don’t want to go home. My stuff is gone. What am I going to do now?”

Pimentel told CBS4 she was not late on her rent and didn’t owe Zaeta any money. No matter. Florida law doesn’t give a landlord the right to enter an apartment and remove items without consent.

zaeta
Valentina Zaeta has been charged with burglary and grand theft in the third degree for stealing items, including a laptop, a Louis Vuitton bag and cash from her tenant’s apartment on Bay Road in Miami Beach. Miami-Dade Corrections

Police arrested Zaeta at her place of business on 1024 Ocean Dr. on Wednesday. She’s being held on $17,000 bond.

“It’s not OK for someone to feel bad because they’re not from here, that they come to our country and decide they want to handle things their way,” Pimentel told CBS4. “It doesn’t work that way and you are not allowed to come into someone’s home and do that.”

There is now an immigration hold on Zaeta, according to the station.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

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