Eric Welch was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida last Thursday on a total of 13 charges, including multiple counts or grand theft and burglary. Welch, 50, is believed to be in custody at the Broward County Jail. He was denied http://www.defense-florida.com/lawyer-attorney-1560650.html at his initial hearing on Tuesday. It is not yet known if Welch has a private criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale.
The charges come in connection to a string of robberies dating as far back at 2009. According to official, Welch is suspected of planting secret access codes in safes that he worked on at his job as a locksmith. He would allegedly later come back and rob the safes using the secret code, leaving no signs of breaking into the safes and confounding victims. Welch worked as a locksmith for LockAmerica, located in Pompano Beach, for nearly two decades.
The affidavit states that Welch is suspected of robbing three Fort Lauderdale Wendy’s restaurants in 2009. He is also accused of robbing Jesse’s Xtreme Sports Bar in Margate twice, once in November 12, 2011 and again a month later, according to the report. The report states that he got into the establishment on November using a crowbar, then walked over to the safe and punched in his secret code. The second time, on December 26, he smashed a glass door before using the secret code again. Police have reportedly received a confession regarding Welch’s use of the secret code in those instances.
Jesse Walcutt, the owner of Jesse’s Xtreme Sports Bar, told the press that he had been completely thrown by the robberies, at first suspecting that his employees were breaking in. Eventually, he concluded that a computer hacker had accessed the safe’s combination. The arrest, he said, made him feel at peace.
The sting that caught Welch began in early January, when he approached an undercover sheriff’s deputy for help stealing a van normally used to transport cash to ATMs in the area, reports indicate. The deputy said that Welch informed him that he had installed a “bypass” code in the safe in the van.
Police acquired the van and put it behind a Home Depot in the 1100 block of South State Road 7 in Margate on Thursday. The deputy then contacted Welch and told him he had stolen the vehicle. Welch came to the location, got into the back of the van, and opened the safe using his secret code, according to the deputy. When he turned around, he was arrested by a waiting team of police.
Authorities have not released an estimate of how much they believe Welch may have taken. Welch’s longtime boss and the owner of LockAmerica, C.J. Donofrio, says that his company is shocked by the allegations. “We are embarrassed. People have trusted us for 30 years,” he told the press. “We still don’t know what happened to him. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde with him.” Donofrio says that Welch was a highly skilled worker and had never caused any issues at work before. LockAmerica is cooperating with the investigation.