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A group of brazen criminals got away with dozens of weapons after they busted through the wall of a gun store in Wesley Chapel, investigators said Monday.
Special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the thieves used hammers to tunnel through and 8-inch thick concrete wall to get into Grey Wolf Armory.
Surveillance cameras then recorded the thieves crawling on their hands and knees as they stole as many weapons as they could.
"I've spent thousands of dollars ensuring that this is not a facility that's easy to break into. These individuals were highly determined and this was well-planned," said Jeff Webb, the store's owner. "What they did to that wall is not something that you can do quickly or easily. They were out here for at least 45 minutes, according to the security footage, banging on that wall with hammers to gain entry."
Webb said his business has an alarm system, but it was not triggered.
According to Pasco County deputies, the suspects stole 30 handguns, two long guns, and one sniper rifle.
"It is very frustrating," Webb continued. "It's hard to wrap your head around individuals who are willing to do something like this and steal from a family-owned business."
The owner believes this is the second time these same criminals have broken into his business; someone tunneled through the same wall wearing similar clothing in mid-March.
ATF agents said this type of crime is becoming more common throughout the U.S. and sometimes it's impossible to prevent determined thieves from entering a business.
"The vulnerability point was the wall and that's what we're seeing around the country," said Kevin Richardson, an ATF spokesperson. "A lot of these particular thieves, burglars; they are going directly through the wall of these particular dealers."
The number of gun store burglaries is also on the rise in Tampa. There were 10 in 2015, up from four the previous year. Thieves stole more than 100 weapons in the crimes last year.
Richardson said investigators have to answer some tough questions.
"Are these thieves that are tapped into an international market or are these thieves that are just trying tap into where they've got a connection in another state?" he wondered.
Webb worries the thieves who stole from him already know what they're going to do with the guns.
"They either knew what they could turn or they were taking them for personal use," he offered.