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Business Fraud arrest
ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- Escambia County - We warned you on Wednesday about a man and woman accused of ripping off stores from Baldwin County to Okaloosa.
Thursday night Escambia County deputies arrested them both. Deputies say Tia Smith and Michael Garay targeted antiques and jewelry stores, making off with thousands in dollars in merchandise. They later sold to pawn shops.
Smith is charged with multiple counts of fraud and larceny. And Garay is facing multiple worthless check charges.
They both were in court Friday afternoon. Smith's bond was set at $144,000. Garay's was $25,000.
Both Tia Smith and John Garay wrote bad checks to businesses from Baldwin County to Okaloosa.
Kay Keller and Catherine Hughes' store Oooodles Antiques became victims in June.
They say Tia Smith came in with a little girl. Smith said she was looking for a ring for her grandmother's 80th birthday.
"We were just proud because we were thinking we were helping her grandmother," said Keller.
Later on, they say, John Garay came in with a little boy buying a ring for his girlfriend.
"The boy just kind of stole our hearts. He was the cutest little thing. He's talking you know and the guy was looking for jewelry for his girlfriend," said Keller.
The bad checks cost them nearly $800. Jennifer's Flea Market lost nearly $600 when Smith purchased several coins and a bracelet with the little girl in tow.
"She just seemed so trustworthy. She had told me she was a prestigious doctor and just other lies that made it easy for me to believe her and trust her," said Aryn Smith,
But the store's owner got suspicious.
"I didn't think the checks were any good because of the numbers on them," said Jennifer Penna.
"It's amazing to me that they could go to shop after shop, you know we really have to protect ourselves as business owners," said Keller.
They took a stand and warned others about the pair.
"Whatever information we had we shared with everyone else and vise versa," said Cathrine Hughes.
"I'm excited that they've stopped this. I'm worried for the kids because you don't want them to be in a situation like that," said Keller.
If you think your business might have been a victim, you're asked to call the Escambia County Sheriff's Office or Crime Stoppers at 433-STOP.