POLK COUNTY, Fla. – Four teens have been arrested in Polk County for a string of car burglaries that happened in Mulberry
According to deputies, on February 20, 2023, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested 18-year-old Eugene Akines of Tampa, 17-year-old Cedric Upshaw* of Tampa, 17-year-old Jamari Footman* of Tampa, and 17-year-old Sergio Hollis* of Bartow after they burglarized 15 vehicles at three Polk County apartment complexes: Avenue Apartments (6720 South Florida Ave.) and Ariva Apartments (5190 Ariva Blvd.) both in Lakeland, and the Huntington at Sundance Apartments (300 Heartland Blvd.) in Mulberry.
One of the victims reported a firearm had been stolen from his vehicle. All of the burglarized vehicles were unlocked, deputies say.
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Investigators say, at around 2:10 a.m. Monday morning, deputies responded to the Avenue Apartments about a report of multiple vehicle burglaries.
When they arrived, they learned that a witness saw four burglary suspects flee the parking lot driving south on Florida Avenue and then turning west on Shepherd Road in a sedan-style vehicle.
During a canvass of the area, detectives located a purse belonging to one of the victims and learned her Ford Explorer and credit cards had been stolen. The victim told detectives she received an alert from her bank that one of her credit cards had been used to purchase gas at a RaceTrac in Bartow.
The stolen Explorer was recovered at Mavis Tires and Brakes located at 5120 Dave Robbins Way in Lakeland.
Detectives obtained video surveillance from Mavis Tires that shows two suspects arriving at the business in a four-door Kia, parking, and then walking towards the Ariva Apartments. The suspects return to the Kia and wait for several minutes, until the stolen Explorer arrives and parks. Two other suspects exit the SUV and get into the Kia, and all four leave.
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Detectives also obtained video from the RaceTrac that shows the suspects using the stolen credit card to put gas in the Kia, and an attempt to withdraw cash from the ATM.
Based on surveillance video, detectives were able to identify the registered owner of the Kia, and located the four teens at Upshaw and Hollis’ relative’s residence in Bartow where they were arrested. During a search of the house, detectives found two handguns in Upshaw’s laundry and one handgun in his bedroom. The seized handguns are not reported as stolen, and detectives are working to locate their owners.
Also located in Upshaw’s bedroom were stolen credit cards and the keys to the stolen Explorer.
Akines, Hollis, and Footman told detectives that they, along with Upshaw, burglarized the vehicles at the apartment complexes. Akines admitted he tried to use the stolen credit card to withdraw $500 from an ATM at the RaceTrac in Bartow. Akines also told detectives that he was a look-out while his friends broke into vehicles.
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“Thanks to the citizen who saw something and said something, four criminals are off the street. Our Juvenile Justice System must hold juveniles committing crime accountable to protect communities from becoming victimized. I also have another message to the community — please help yourselves by locking your vehicles to help prevent thieves from easily accessing the things you work hard for. And don’t leave firearms or other valuables inside unsecured vehicles,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
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