Suspect arrested when stolen car runs out of gas near police station
Published: March 6, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - A 53-year-old man remained in custody Tuesday after police said a car he stole ran out of gas near St. Thomas' main police station and the suspect could not keep his cover stories straight.
Felix Esquerdo Jr., of Frenchman's Bay, is now facing charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle and possession of stolen property, according to court records.
The victim in the case contacted police on Feb. 14 after he parked a rental car at Al Cohen's Mall the night before and lost the keys to the car while eating dinner at Shipwreck Tavern, according to a probable cause fact sheet filed Tuesday by V.I. Police Detective Sehkera Tyson.
The victim told police he had more than $10,000 in personal items locked in the trunk of the car, but because there was a rental car satellite office in the mall and "daybreak was only a few hours away," he took a taxi to his room at Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort and left the car behind.
The victim contacted the rental car office the next day about the vehicle, and the rental agent told the victim his car was not there, adding that the area is "a magnet for criminal activity," according to the fact sheet.
Police put out an all-points bulletin to be on the look out for the rental car, a gray 2013 Toyota Corolla.
On Sunday, Tyson saw a car matching the description near the island's main police station on Veterans Drive. The car appeared to be broken down in the intersection, according to the fact sheet.
Tyson, who was having a conversation in the parking lot with another detective, watched two men push the car into the Fort Christian parking lot and thought the vehicle fit the description of the missing rental car, except for the license plate, according to the fact sheet. Tyson radioed in to dispatch for a registration check and found the license plate on the Corolla was registered to a 1995 GMC van.
Tyson also checked the sticker number on the car, which was paired in the government's vehicle database to the license plate of the rental car that had been reported stolen by that time.
Esquerdo "spontaneously uttered" that he was doing work on the vehicle for someone named Michael and that something must be wrong with the vehicle's fuel system, according to the fact sheet.
Esquerdo and his passenger then were advised of their rights and questioned by detectives.
Esquerdo then told Tyson that he had gotten the vehicle earlier that afternoon from a man named Henry Samuel. Esquerdo claimed that he had asked Samuel for a ride to get some tools from Crown Bay, but Samuel told Esquerdo that he was waiting on some individuals to leave Hooters, so he told Esquerdo to take his car to get the tools and return the vehicle to the Havensight area.
When Tyson questioned Esquerdo about his conflicting statements, Esquerdo tried to explain that he got the car from Henry Samuel but was doing work on a different car for the man named Michael.
Esquerdo's passenger told police a third version of the defendant's story: that Esquerdo got the car from an aunt. The passenger told police he believed the vehicle had simply run out of gas when detectives spotted it near the police station.
V.I. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay advised Esquerdo of his rights Tuesday and set his bond at $10,000 with 10 percent required to the court. He had not posted the amount as of press time Tuesday.
Esquerdo has four previous arrests on his Virgin Islands record, according to court documents. He was convicted on one count of forgery in 1993; the three other cases are listed as having "no known disposition" on Esquerdo's rap sheet. - Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.