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Van Ostenbridge Avoids Theft Charges by Entering PTI

BRADENTON – Facing misdemeanor larceny charges following the theft of a large potted bougainvillea from a constituent's property, Manatee County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge has entered a pre-trial diversion program with the state's attorney's office, according to documentation obtained by The Bradenton Times.

Commissioner Van Ostenbridge (R-Dist. 3) will receive three months of probation and have to complete 25 hours of community service, according to the agreement. The elected official will also have to take an 8-hour class and write an apology letter to the victim. If the conditions are met, the charge will not be prosecuted.

The victim provided the following statement to TBT:

"It's disappointing to see a county commissioner do this to a small business owner who grew up here. We are hopeful Kevin has learned from this, and his next bougainvillea will be purchased from one of manatee county's great family-owned nurseries."

Commissioner Van Ostenbridge did not return TBT's request for comment on the PTI.

On the evening of September 22, Van Ostenbridge was captured on surveillance video entering a privately owned parking lot/parcel. TBT obtained copies of surveillance video clips that show Van Ostenbridge's pickup truck leaving the property with a large bougainvillea bush towering over the cab in the bed of the truck. On an earlier visit to the property, Van Ostenbridge is seen without his truck, walking his dog onto the property.

The first video clip showed the pickup truck entering the property and driving around a traffic cone placed in the middle of the driveway just feet away from a yellow "Private Property- Keep Out" sign positioned at the edge and entrance of the driveway. The truck is seen driving toward the back of the property, out of the surveillance camera's view.

Approximately four hours later, Van Ostenbridge was captured on video surveillance walking his dog, and entering the property again. Van Ostenbridge can be seen kicking the traffic cone away from the middle and front of the driveway's entrance before walking to the back of the property where the bougainvillea was located.

At 10:30 p.m., the truck returned to the property where the traffic cone and "Private Property" sign can be seen in the glow of the truck’s headlight beams. The pickup truck drives toward the back of the property, out of the surveillance camera's view, toward the potted bougainvillea. It can then be seen exiting the property with an approximately 5-6 foot tall, bushy, bougainvillea plant towering from the bed of the vehicle.

The bougainvillea plant, valued at $300 according to the incident report, was later recovered from the backyard of Van Ostenbridge’s Bradenton home. The commissioner initially asserted that, despite both the signage and the plant's healthy condition, he believed it to have been abandoned and felt that he was merely "rescuing" it.


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