ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One man’s luxury suite at a Florida stadium turned out to be another man’s home for nearly two weeks. And that man lived it up big, helping himself to food, drinks and merchandise, authorities said.
Police in St. Petersburg arrested a man for living inside the suite at Al Lang Stadium, which is home to the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team, WTVT reported.
Daniel Albert Neja, 39, of Clearwater, was arrested and charged with burglary and resisting an officer without violence, according to Pinellas County online jail records. He remains in the Pinellas County Jail; bail was set at $5,150.
According to an arrest affidavit, Neja set up living space inside the stadium and stole multiple different types of clothing worth $1,043. He also consumed approximately $250 in drinks, police said.
“He went into the merchandise store, he went into the food area,” Yolanda Fernandez, a spokesperson for the St. Petersburg Police Department, told reporters. “So he was wearing the merchandise and just helping himself to the food.”
Neja, who is listed as a transient on his arrest report, lost his luxurious lifestyle when a cleaning crew entered the stadium and noticed something was amiss, WFLA reported.
“A cleaning crew went into one of these suites that no one had gone into for some time due to COVID-19 and noticed there were blankets and shaving cream and a razor,” Fernandez said. “Clearly it appeared someone had been living there.”
Police said they believed Neja was staying in the stadium between July 26 and his arrest late Sunday, WFTS reported.
“From what we can tell from what the surveillance video shows, he was there as long as two weeks without anybody noticing,” Fernandez said. “There were workers, employees coming in and out of the facility. It’s possible, he might have just blended in. It’s hard to tell right now.”
According to online records in Hillsborough County, Neja pleaded guilty to breaking into Lutz Elementary School in July. According to the arrest report, Neja told authorities he was inside the school looking for food, WTVT reported.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the stadium has been closed. How Neja managed to evade cleaning crews for nearly two weeks is baffling, Fernandez said.
“It was kind of surprising though, to see that somebody, maybe one or two nights,” Fernandez told reporters. “But to be able to stay there for that long and have nobody notice it.”
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