The Orchid Thief of Coral Gables Strikes Again

By Elisabeth Dee

You may have read The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, or seen Meryl Streep play her in the 2002 comedy-drama metafilm Adaptation, but the real-life drama just played out a mere 88 miles away from the original scandal.

In Coral Gables, Florida, Alina Melidena and Ray Corral are the do-good duo behind The Orchid Project, a neighborhood beautification effort.

According to the Miami Herald, the couple began putting orchids into the oak trees covering the quiet family streets, and six other neighbors followed suit.

The blooms peeking out of the trees oozed cheerful charm and have been especially appreciated during the pandemic when moments of positivity are more precious than ever.

On the morning of June 4, Melidena and Corral discovered all the orchids had been plucked in the early morning.  Could there have been an orchid thief? 

Coral, thinking it was a one-time incident, vowed to replace the beloved flowers.

“It was such a hit, and everybody loved them that we decided to go ahead and start this whole orchid movement, and it became a big hit,” Corral told WSVN after the incident. Corral spent an additional $2,000 to replace them, and flower-loving neighbors pitched in.

But then the thief struck again on June 19. “Ray wanted to put in orchids for the good of all the neighbors,” Carl Kafka, who lives across the street from Corral and Melidena, told the Herald. “They are so beautiful — especially in the pandemic, when we are using our street so often … for someone to do that.”

Police saw the culprit, Katrina Brady, on surveillance tape first on June 4, then again on June 19. According to Sgt. Tomas Salcedo, Brady was charged with multiple counts of grand theft for “stealing orchids that residents had placed on trees growing in the swale.” The total value of the stolen orchids: an impressive $4,000.

The cost to Brady’s reputation far more.

While the story has ricocheted around the web, others are now sharing their stories about flower thieves. Cases include a house buyer expecting a garden of blooms to arrive and see the previous tenant uprooted all the roses and peonies. Another time someone cut off the lilacs of a neighbor leaving the tree bare. 

We’re collecting stories. Do you have any?

We’re hoping someone will help donate more orchids to Coral. In fact, we just may.