Stolen baby tortoise returned to Mesa reptile store after Facebook post

Posted at 8:55 PM, Aug 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-11 02:05:22-04

A baby tortoise was swiped from a Mesa store, and the crime was caught on camera.

The owner posted the suspects’ photos on Facebook, and the tortoise was returned by the next day.

The crime happened at Predators Reptile Center Tuesday night. The store had just received a shipment of two baby tortoises and, when the owner stepped away from the case, one was stolen.

“I went into the back to get a lock, and I got stuck with another customer,” store owner Christian Kaleta said. “By the time I got back, they were gone.”

The case clearly lists the price of the tortoise that was stolen at $300. Kaleta said he doesn’t believe it was a planned burglary, but a crime of opportunity.

“Who steals a tortoise anyway?” asked Kaleta.

In the surveillance video, a couple is seen walking over to the case and admiring the tortoise. The woman appeared to be acting as a lookout for the man as he quickly grabbed the tiny reptile and tucked it away.

And this isn't the first time this store has been hit. In 2011, ABC15 covered another burglary at the store. In that crime, a man was seen stuffing five snakes down his pants.

With the most recent case, the owner waited no time to post the couple's photos on Facebook and was shocked at the response.

“In 12 hours, 60,000 people commented in and helped find the tortoise,” Kaleta said.

He said that people posted the suspects’ names, phone number and address on Facebook. It led to a friend of the suspects’ calling the store and returning the tortoise to safety.

“I think that we're going to call him Justice,” Kaleta said. “Because we got our justice.”

Kaleta said he plans to press charges.