DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Two bird stores in South Florida have been burglarized only a few weeks apart, and now investigators are trying to figure out if the cases are connected.
From Finches to Macaws, Brenda's Birds is a family-owned business in Delray Beach that has been open for nearly three decades.
"We have all different types of exotic birds," said Billy, who did not want to use his last name. "We just put a lot of love and care into it. We take care of a lot of young baby birds."
The birds are a hot commodity, with some selling for thousands of dollars. Billy said he was already on high alert after recent burglaries in Orlando and Broward County, and he increased security before Friday night.
"I got an alert on my phone that the power and the Wi-Fi went off," he said.
Billy said when he drove around the back of the building, he saw the door open and then a man run outside. He called police and later found a hole cut in the ceiling.
"There was a whole bunch of birds flying around from the cages he left open," Billy said.
Last month, another bird store called The Birdhouse in Davie was burglarized.
Police said the ceiling and power was also cut, but the thief was able to get away with about 140 birds. Surveillance video captured outside the store appears to show someone walking away with his or her hands full.
"I'm so heartbroken," Charlie Hong, owner of The Birdhouse, said. "This is my dream. This is what I do."
At Brenda's, Billy said he found birds stuffed into cages at the door, which would have been a loss of about $60,000.
Investigators said Yeimis Portieles, 31, of Hialeah, was later found and arrested in connection with the attempted burglary in Delray Beach, where police are now trying to figure out if the cases are connected.
"We would have had nothing left," Billy said. "If we didn't make it just at that time, it would have been empty."
Billy said several larger birds did not survive the attempted heist.
Portieles is facing burglary and theft charges, as well as a child neglect charge because police said he had a 2-month-old baby in the car at the time.