ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - With 70 or 80 tourists crammed into Larry's Olde Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, a man emerged from the men's room, soaking wet and bearing bad news.
"Your urinal is busted," he told owner Sid Herman.
As luck would have it, the man was a plumber, and his tools were in the truck.
What a coincidence.
Police think this coincidence was repeated as many as 15 or 16 times at area restaurants over the past several weeks.
St. Pete Beach police say Mark Harrison Hawkins, 42, a St. Pete Beach resident, struck restaurants at their busiest.
"We even gave him an ice-cream cake for helping us out ... plus $250," Herman said of the March incident at his shop.
St. Pete Beach police arrested Hawkins late last week on one count of scheming to defraud, three counts of theft and three counts of criminal mischief. He is being held at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $53,000 bail.
Police also found a receipt booklet detailing work Hawkins did for more than a dozen other restaurants, most of them on the beach, St. Pete Beach police Officer Ray Anthony said. Investigators are contacting those businesses.
"He breaks the handle that flushes, then he comes out of the bathroom and he tells the manager, 'Hey, your toilet's busted. Water's coming out of it,' " Anthony said. "They're busy, and he says, 'Oh, by the way, I'm a plumber.' "
Police say Hawkins perpetrated the scam wearing a brown shirt and pants resembling a uniform. On the shirt he wrote in black marker: "All Plumbing."
Which is not to be confused with All Professional Plumbing of Seminole, where owner David Giles wants everyone to know he is a one-man operation and has never met Hawkins. He said police even came to his house to check whether his truck matched the one the urinal vandal was known to drive.
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