Deputies say the arrest of a Golden Gate man on grand theft auto charges Thursday may be the break they need in solving a recent string of thefts of Ford F-250/F-350 pickups around Southwest Florida.
About a dozen of the older model full-sized Ford pickups have been stolen in Collier County over the past three months. Surrounding counties have also seen an increase in similar thefts.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has been partnering with other jurisdictions to actively identify suspects in the cases, said Sgt. Ron Myers, who oversees the agency’s Grand Theft Auto Unit. The partnership includes Naples Police Department, Marco Island Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Myers Police Department, Cape Coral Police Department, and Florida Highway Patrol, he said.
The older F-250s and F-350s don't have the enhanced anti-theft protections of newer models and car thieves know that, Sgt. Myers said.
Sgt. Myers said the arrest of 19-year-old Emmanuel B. Hernandez on Thursday may give law enforcement the break they need in solving these cases.
According to CCSO arrest reports, deputies were investigating a report of the theft of a 2005 red F-250 pickup from the parking lot of Whistlers Green Apartments in Golden Gate early Thursday.
Deputies located the stolen F-250 in the parking lot of Noah’s Landing Apartments in Golden Gate. Deputies also located a 2002 blue F-350 parked nearby that had been reported stolen sometime Wednesday night or Thursday morning from a residence in the 5000 block of 16th Place Southwest in Golden Gate.
Deputies observed a White Crown Victoria pull in front of the red F-250 and park. Hernandez, wearing white gloves, exited the Crown Vic and entered the red F-250 and searched the front driver’s area. He got out of the pickup and went back inside the Crown Vic and drove away. Deputies conducted a traffic stop and arrested Hernandez, 10630 Noah’s Circle, on two counts of grand theft auto. He was also charged with driving on a suspended license for a fourth time.
In addition to observing him inside the stolen F-250, deputies said Hernandez made statements linking him to both stolen vehicles.
Sgt. Myers said the red F-250 and the blue F-350 had similarities to other thefts in the surrounding area including that the key entrys on both driver-side doors had been punched out and the radios had been stolen.
“The methods of operation were similar,” he said.