Posted on October 5, 2022

DeSantis Tears Into ‘Illegal Alien’ Looters After They Were Arrested for Ransacking Homes Devastated by Hurricane Ian

Claudia Aoraha and James Gordon, Daily Mail, October 4, 2022

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis revealed Tuesday that three of the four looting suspects arrested in Lee County were in the United States illegally.

The Republican executive made the revelation during a news conference in Fort Myers on Tuesday as he gave an update about the response to Hurricane Ian.

DeSantis focused on ‘law and order’ in southwest Florida and drew a connection between that at his opposition to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

‘These are people that are foreigners, they’re illegally in our country, but not only that, they try to loot and ransack in the aftermath of a natural disaster,’ DeSantis explained.

‘They should be prosecuted, but they need to be sent back to their home country. They should not be here at all.’

The four men were arrested on charges of burglary of an unoccupied structure during a state of emergency, according to online jail records.

The individuals, aged between 20 and 33, were booked for ransacking devastated homes and businesses on Fort Myers Beach while they suffered in the wake of the raging torrent.

All four looters were arrested on September 29 – but documents reveal that they were released after posting $35,000 bonds each.

The oldest looting suspect is Omar Mejia Ortiz, 33. He lives in Immokalee – meaning he traveled at least 50 miles to Fort Myers beach to ransack the ruinous shops and homes after Hurricane Ian’s wrath, reports Florida Jolt.

Valerie Celeste Salcedo Mena, 26, made her way from her home in Cape Coral, which is at least a 40-minute drive to the Florida coastline.

The youngest two suspects who were arrested for looting seem to be related – Brandon Mauricio Araya and Steve Eduardo Sanchez Araya.

The young men, both aged 20, traveled from the same address in Cape Coral before finding themselves booked in Lee County.

All four suspects were booked for the same crime: Burglary of an unoccupied structure during a state of emergency and all will face a hearing on October 31 at Lee County’s Circuit Court.

Lee County currently has a curfew and a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against looting.

DeSantis has taken a hard line against looters since Ian struck the Sunshine State and told of a sign he saw in the city of Punta Gorda.

‘They boarded up all the businesses, and there are people that wrote on their plywood, ‘you loot, we shoot,’ DeSantis said.

‘At the end of the day, we are not going to allow lawlessness to take advantage of this situation. We are a law-and-order state, and this is a law-and-order community, so do not think that you’re going to go take advantage of people who’ve suffered misfortune.’

DeSantis has taken a similarly hard line when it comes to immigration and last month was instrumental in sending 48 Venezuelan migrants on flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Later in St. Augustine, DeSantis said he told Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie that the state could provide support in the event of people bringing boats to try to ‘ransack’ homes on islands that have been isolated from the mainland.

‘I can tell you, in the state of Florida, you never know what may be lurking behind somebody’s home,’ DeSantis said. ‘I would not want to chance that if I were you, given that we’re a Second Amendment state.’

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno backed up DeSantis position on looting in the wake of the destructive storm.

‘As far as looting — we have law and order in Lee County. We have law and order in our great state of Florida, and we always will. Right now, we have four cases of looting, and I’m proud to say they’re behind bars where they belong. Our residents are going to be safe,’ said Marceno.

‘All three of these subjects are here illegally in this country — Robert Mena, Brandon Araya, Stephen Araya — all arrested for stealing bottles on Fort Myers Beach during the hurricane. They were located and arrested. And I’m going to tell you, I’m not tolerating it again.’

Marceno warned that those who loot risk being shot by police.

‘I’m not playing. We’re not playing. We have law and order and great residents will be safe and secure. We’ve had arrests on these incidents,’ Marceno continued. ‘You might walk in. You’ll be carried out.’

The mounting death toll from Ian’s wrath currently stands at 85, and ‘ground zero’ Fort Myers is currently one of Florida’s most decimated neighborhoods as rescue teams desperately try and find survivors amid the rubble.

Last week, NBC2 reporter Gage Goulding captured the moment five looters were handcuffed on video – as the opportunistic rebels kept their eyes on the ground during the embarrassing arrest.

In a menacing warning to looters, Ron DeSantis said that Floridians would not be scared to evoke their second amendment if they caught an opportunist looter in their midst.

The Florida Gov told a press conference in St. Augustine, he said: ‘Don’t even think about looting, don’t even think about taking advantage of people in this vulnerable situation.

‘I can tell you, in the state of Florida, you never know what may be lurking behind somebody’s home.

‘I would not want to chance that if I were you, given that we’re a Second Amendment state.

‘At the end of the day, we are not going to allow lawlessness to take advantage of this situation.’

DeSantis warned that robbers may try to arrive on boats in a bid to ransack people’s homes.

The state’s Attorney General Ashley Moody also said: ‘Floridians displaced by Hurricane Ian have enough to worry about without having to fear theft or burglary at the hands of offenders previously arrested for crimes during the state of emergency.

‘These unscrupulous offenders must remain locked up where they can no longer prey on vulnerable Floridians.

‘I strongly urge state attorneys to seek pretrial detention to the fullest extent possible for any criminal heartless enough to victimize Floridians during this extremely challenging time.’

And after seeing the video of the looters on the ground, Moody added: ‘I have asked state attorneys to seek the longest pretrial detention possible to keep them locked up so they cannot commit new crimes.’

The torrent brought ashore by Hurricane Ian caused an estimated $60 billion in damage.

Insurers assessing the damage to properties ransacked by the flooding and winds are bracing for a multi-billion dollar hit after Florida’s streets were turned into rivers and houses were engulfed by the raging Category 4 storm.

Decimated coastal towns and submerged homes are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the catastrophic loss caused by the violent weather front last week. So far, more than 1,600 locals have been rescued.

The current number of fatalities is only expected to grow as rescue teams dive in and assess the shattered towns submerged by Ian’s fury – while 600,000 people are still in darkness after the hurricane obliterated power lines.

Depleted survivors on ‘ground zero’ Fort Myers, which was obliterated by the 15-foot storm surge, were forced to escape the aftermath on foot, while clear-up teams rummaged street by street through the shocking debris.

The eye-watering projection includes estimated wind, storm surge, and inland flood losses resulting from Ian’s landfalls in both Florida and South Carolina, risk modeling firm Verisk said.