TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A tow truck driver was arrested in Lake Wales for allegedly stealing a disabled vehicle on Tuesday.
According to the Lake Wales Police Department, a 2010 Nissan Maxima was reported stolen to their agency on June 21. The owner had left the car parked on the shoulder of Highway 27 North, in front of a Race Trac gas station, due to mechanical issues.
Witnesses later saw a white tow truck removing the vehicle from the area.
According to police, detectives learned on Monday from the owner that he had been contacted by a local tow company about his car.
Jesus Melendez, 32, from J&M Towing company in Haines City, reportedly sent a letter to the victim, saying the vehicle had been towed at the gas station manager’s request. That was false information, according to police, as Race Trac management confirmed they do not have vehicles towed.
The letter also told the victim if he paid $735, he could have his car back, police said.
When detectives spoke with Melendez by phone, he initially told the same story. When questioned further, he said he needed his lawyer.
On Tuesday, detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Melendez for grand theft and scheming to defraud charges.
Melendez was found and taken in to custody. The victim’s vehicle was found on Lafoley Street in Haines City and was returned to the owner.
Lake Wales police said there is a “high likelihood” Melendez has done this before and there may be more victims. If you believe you are a victim of Melendez’s scheme, contact the Lake Wales Police Department.
Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact Detective Rhoden at 863-678-4223. To stay anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward through Heartland Crime Stoppers, call 1-800-226-TIPS or dial *TIPS from a cell phone. Tips can also be submitted online or via the “P3tips” app.