Florida & polk county , winter haven news

Lake Wales Man Caught On Video Stealing Money From Church Earmarked For Local Pregnancy Care Program

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Lake Wales Police Department Press Release

On June 18, 2018 at approximately 12:00pm Burley Howard was arrested for stealing from the First Baptist Church, located at 338 East Central Avenue. Howard, a 59 year old Lake Wales resident, was seen by a church staff person walking around suspiciously inside the church. That employee contacted other staff members who began looking for Howard to see how they could assist him. Howard was located walking in the alley on the north side of the church carrying a box. Howard told the staff member the box contained food which he was told he could have. The staff member looked inside the box and saw it was full of baby bottles “piggy banks” which were used for a fundraiser. The baby bottles contained coins, cash, and personal checks. The staff member confronted Howard about stealing from the church and Howard took off running. The police were called and Howard was located in the area.


Security footage from the church shows Howard enter the church through the courtyard entrance. Howard is seen opening a door and going out of view for a brief moment. When he reemerges he is carrying the box which contained the baby bottles. Howard exits the church to the alley on the north side of the building and shortly after that is when he is stopped by a staff member. Howard stole 30 baby bottles which contained a total of $518.10 of currency and $317.00 in personal checks. The baby bottle fundraiser was done by the First Baptist Church to support the pregnancy care program of the Lake Wales Care Center. The baby bottles are made available to church members on Mother’s Day and were collected on Father’s Day.

As a result of this investigation Howard was arrested for Grand Theft and booked into the Polk County Jail. When Howard committed this theft he was out of jail on bond for 2 counts of burglary, grand theft, felony petit theft, and 2 counts of criminal mischief. Howard’s criminal history is extensive dating back to 1988. In addition to the charges he was on bond for his criminal history includes: theft of a firearm, 2 counts of burglary to a conveyance, burglary to a residence, grand theft, 3 counts of petit theft, resisting arrest, uttering forged instruments, escape, possess/sell/deliver a controlled substance near a church, and pocket picking. Anyone with additional information about this investigation or similar incidents is asked to contact the Lake Wales Police at (863) 678-4223.

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