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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

Thief who stole political banners in The Villages could face felony charge

A thief who stole political banners in The Villages could face a felony charge.

The theft of the banners in the hotly-contested Sumter County Commission race, has already inspired a guessing game of who would have been motivated to steal the “Craig Estep for Sumter County Commissioner” banners that were displayed on a golf cart parked at the postal station in the Village of Sanibel.

Estep is fighting for re-election to the seat he won in 2020. It was an uphill battle against an incumbent who had the heavy financial backing of the Developer of The Villages. The Developer has led the way in more than $100,000 in financial donations to Estep’s current opponent, Todd Coon, who owns a company which does landscaping for new homes south of State Road 44 in The Villages. In contrast, Estep has raised a little more than $5,000, which includes about $2,500 of his own money.

This banner was stolen from a golf cart parked at a postal station in The Villages
This banner was stolen from a golf cart parked at a postal station in The Villages.

Whoever stole the Estep banners from the golf cart could be facing a felony charge, according to Villager Gilbert Windsor, owner of the golf cart. The charge could include “election interference,” making it a felony under state statute.

The Village of Bonita resident had parked the golf cart at about 8 a.m. Wednesday at the postal station. When he returned to collect the golf cart at about 8:30 p.m., the banners were gone. He called the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

A detective investigating the case has narrowed the time of the theft down to between 5 and 8 p.m. that day. Trash cans in the vicinity were inspected and the political banners were not found in them. Various surveillance cameras have also been checked. The banners had been secured with bungee cords, which were also stolen.

In addition to the money being poured into the contest, critics are crying foul over a trio of last-minute write-ins in the Sumter County Commission races, said to be aimed at disenfranchising voters, thus enhancing the chances of the three candidates supported by the Developer.

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