The Orchid Thief

In a Story that Made National Headlines, a Gables Orchid Thief is Nabbed

After Ray Corral and Alina Meledina moved into a historic home on Country Club Prado more than two years ago, the couple began affixing orchids to the trees in their yard and encouraged neighbors to do the same. “We thought, if this catches on, we could make Country Club Prado the Street of Orchids,” said Corral, a mosaicist. That would be fine with Coral Gables, home to the headquarters of the American Orchid Society. But just as the neighborhood beautification project seemed to be taking off, the coronavirus pandemic hit. And then the orchid thief struck.

According to surveillance video, during at least two midnight missions this summer, a woman got out of a car to swipe orchids from trees in front of the homes of Corral and other residents of Prado north of Coral Way. The purloined plants were valued at $4,000, said Coral Gables police. “When everyone else was sleeping, she was stealing,” said Corral.

But the orchid thief did not get away. Acting on a tip from a former friend of the alleged culprit who saw a surveillance video posted to social media, police arrested Katrina Marie Brady, 34, who lives a few blocks west of the crime scene (outside the Gables). Once in custody, Brady confessed and was charged with third-degree grand theft. She was freed on a $5,000 bond.

Reminiscent of the best-selling Susan Orlean book “The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession,” and the movie it inspired, “Adaptation,” the story of the Gables orchid thief got picked up around the globe. Stories appeared in the New York Post, the Daily News, and as far away as the Daily Mail in London. And now? Corral has invested $3,000 more in street orchids since the thief was busted, with more contributed by neighbors. “When we moved in, there was not one orchid on the block,” says Corral. “Now there are more than ever. People keep reading about it, and that made the neighborhood want to be a part of it. This has caught on.”