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Two Illegal Immigrants from South America Arrested For Multiple Vehicle Burglaries and Fraud

Polk County Sheriff’s Office Press Release

On March 29, 2023, Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested 33-year-old Ricardo Guerra-Vergara and 32-year-old Eduardo Rojas-Astudillofor multiple vehicle burglaries, grand theft, fraud and other charges. Both Guerra-Vergara and Rojas-Astudillo are Chilean citizens who are in the United States illegally.

Hunt Fountain Park burglaries

On March 25, 2023, detectives began investigating two vehicle burglaries that occurred at Hunt Fountain Park (2020 Duff Road) in Lakeland. An additional vehicle at the park was damaged from an attempted burglary as well. The suspects removed personal items, including credit and debit cards, from the vehicles. The burglaries occurred while the victims were attending youth sporting events at the park.

The victims received multiple notifications from their financial institutions alerting them to fraudulent activity associated with the stolen credit and debit cards while they were at the park, at which time they returned to their vehicles and found them damaged and/or burglarized.

In the first burglary, two victims received multiple alerts of suspected fraudulent activity from their financial institutions. Detectives confirmed that a total of $4,994.19 was withdrawn using the stolen cards, and an additional $9,529.26 was attempted but the transactions were declined. 

Another victim received alerts that someone attempted to withdraw $6669.63 from different credit and debit cards. When the victim checked, all of the fraudulently used cards were still in her wallet, however, $957 in cash was taken from her car. 

Another victim whose car was parked in the lot reported damage to her driver side keyhole, but nothing from within her vehicle was missing.

Lake Parker Park burglary

During the investigation, detectives learned that the Lakeland Police Department was investigating a similar vehicle burglary by the same suspects at the Lake Parker Pavilion Park (830 E. Robson St.) that also occurred on March 25th. The suspects burglarized one vehicle and damaged a second vehicle in a failed attempt to break into it. 

PCSO detectives obtained video evidence at Lake Parker Park that identified a gray Dodge Durango as the suspects’ vehicle. The video revealed three Hispanic males in the Durango—the truck stopped beside a victim’s vehicle and exited the Durango. Two of the men appeared to be look-outs, while the third male entered the victim’s vehicle. All three returned to the Durango and left the park. 

A total of four victims had personal items in the burglarized vehicle. The suspects attempted to withdraw a total of $13,200.66 from the victims’ credit and debit cards. The attempted transactions were declined by the financial institutions. Also stolen from the vehicle was $795 in cash. 

The Dodge Durango was determined to have been rented from Miami, Florida, and the vehicle information was disseminated to area law enforcement agencies.

On March 29th, The Haines City Police Department located the Durango at the Bank of America (905 E. Hinson Ave.) in Haines City. Officers confirmed the identities of the men in the Durango as Guerra-Vergara and Rojas-Astudillo. They were detained until PCSO detectives arrived.

PCSO detectives showed both suspects a photo of themselves from the Lake Parker Pavilion Park security video. Rojas-Astudillo admitted they were the men in the photo. Detectives also heard Guerra-Vergara make the statements, “I was wearing a hat, so they can’t tell it was me,” and “They can’t prove anything, we returned all of the cards.”

“Not only are these criminals in the country illegally, they are preying on the innocent citizens of Polk County. Because of the quick work by my detectives and the partnership we have with other law enforcement agencies, these two thieves are off the street and in jail where they belong. Two key takeaways from this burglary trend are: don’t leave your valuables in plain view when you leave your car parked at a sports field, dog park, or gym, where suspects know women are more likely to leave their purses; and make sure your bank offers fraud alerts – the victims who had that set up on their phones were immediately notified that their cards had been stolen or compromised, which made a huge difference in this investigation.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff

Ricardo Guerra-Vergara was charged with:

  • Grand theft (F3) (3 counts)
  • Vehicle burglary (F3) (3 counts)
  • Attempted vehicle burglary (F3) (2 counts)
  • Fraudulent use of credit cards (F3) (12 counts)
  • Obtaining property by fraud (F3)
  • Criminal use of personal identification (F3) (6 counts)
  • Criminal mischief (F3) (2 counts) 
  • Traveling across county lines to commit a burglary (charge enhancement)

He is currently in the Polk County Jail and being held on a $29,000 bond.

Eduardo Rojas-Astudillo was charged with:

  • Grand theft (F3) (3 counts)
  • Vehicle burglary (F3) (3 counts)
  • Attempted vehicle burglary (F3) (2 counts)
  • Fraudulent use of credit cards (F3) (12 counts)
  • Obtaining property by fraud (F3)
  • Criminal use of personal identification (F3) (6 counts)
  • Criminal mischief (F3) (2 counts) 
  • Traveling across county lines to commit a burglary (charge enhancement)

He is currently in the Polk County Jail and being held on a $29,000 bond.

PCSO has confirmed with the Department of Homeland Security/United States Border Patrol that both Guerra-Vergara and Rojas-Astudillo are in the United States illegally. The Department of Homeland Security has completed an immigration detainer for each of the suspects and they are being held in the Polk County jail with those detainers, in addition to their bond.

author avatar
Carl Fish

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