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Westmoreland

Burglar swipes $1,400 from Hempfield florist's shop as she hands out free bouquets

Stephen Huba
| Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, 2:00 p.m.
Security camera footage from Oct. 11 shows a man burglarizing the office at Bloomin’ Genius Exotic Flowers and Gifts in Hempfield.
Security camera footage from Oct. 11 shows a man burglarizing the office at Bloomin’ Genius Exotic Flowers and Gifts in Hempfield.
Security camera footage from Oct. 11 shows a man burglarizing the office at Bloomin’ Genius Exotic Flowers and Gifts in Hempfield.
Security camera footage from Oct. 11 shows a man burglarizing the office at Bloomin’ Genius Exotic Flowers and Gifts in Hempfield.
Florist Carrie South, right, distributes free bouquets to couple Megan Coppetti and Elmer Smith on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 outside the VA primary care offices near the Westmoreland Mall. South was participating in a nation-wide event called Petal It Forward and is hosted by the Society of American Florists. The objective is to hand out a pair of flower bouquets to random strangers on the street, one for them to keep and another for them to give to someone else for free.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Florist Carrie South, right, distributes free bouquets to couple Megan Coppetti and Elmer Smith on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 outside the VA primary care offices near the Westmoreland Mall. South was participating in a nation-wide event called Petal It Forward and is hosted by the Society of American Florists. The objective is to hand out a pair of flower bouquets to random strangers on the street, one for them to keep and another for them to give to someone else for free.

Carrie South considers herself a giver, but last week she got a hard lesson in what a taker looks like.

At the very moment the florist was handing out free bouquets to veterans, a man burglarized her Hempfield business and made off with nearly $1,400 in cash.

“My heart just sank,” she said.

South, owner of Bloomin' Genius Exotic Flowers and Gifts, went public about the crime Friday in the hope that the culprit will be found and to let people know she hasn't lost faith in humanity.

“I absolutely would never let this stop me from doing good things again. There are a lot of good people in the world,” she said. “I still feel, in general, the world is a pretty darn good place.”

South's was one of four Western Pennsylvania shops to participate Oct. 11 in the national Petal It Forward program, in which florists gave away two bouquets of flowers to random people — one to keep and one to give away.

South set up outside the Greensburg VA Primary Care Center behind Westmoreland Mall and spent about 90 minutes handing bouquets to veterans going in and out of the clinic.

When she returned to her business, however, she soon discovered something was wrong.

“It was probably an hour later. I looked in my drawer and noticed that my PNC bank envelope was gone,” she said.

She checked with her employees before considering the possibility of a theft. It was then that she remembered the video security system her husband, Rick, a locksmith, had installed the week before.

Shortly before 1:30 p.m. Oct. 11, while she was still at the VA clinic, a tattooed man wearing a ballcap can be seen entering the office and opening the desk drawer.

The video shows him furtively looking around and re-entering the office several times. He then opens the drawer, puts the envelope on the desk, takes some rolls of quarters and removes the envelope.

“I just felt so violated,” South said.

The white male appears to have tattoos on both sides of his neck and a tattoo of the word “Boss” or “Ross” on his upper right arm. He is wearing light-colored jeans, sneakers, a dark short-sleeved shirt over a white T-shirt and a dark Tapout ballcap.

South said she believes the man took advantage of the fact that she was away and the only employee on duty was preoccupied. Allison Ambrosia-Dixon said she was helping a customer at the register and taking a phone order at the time of the burglary.

Trooper Steve Limani, spokesman for Troop A in Greensburg, said the state police have a 50 percent solve rate when there is good surveillance footage of the crime.

“The video is the key component,” he said, noting that troopers still have not identified a suspect but are hoping someone will come forward.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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