A Case from the Files of the Coral Gables Police Department
Had Coral Gables Det. Joel Rios not stopped for lunch at a Pembroke Pines pizza joint, the case of the missing Mercedes might never have been solved. But after a slice of “meat lovers,” the officer decided to drive behind the strip mall on his way back to work, and there it was: The stolen car he’d been searching for. (Det. Joel Rios shown above with Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli).
“The license tag had been changed, and the VIN number did not match, but it had the same damage to the bumper and left side I had been told about,” says Rios.
The case began on Sept. 22 when former city commissioner Bill Kerdyk, Jr. reported his gray 2019 Mercedes Coupe stolen overnight from the driveway of his Granada Boulevard home. The key fob had been left inside.
Rios said he first contacted SunPass, which used the vehicle’s license plate to come up with a picture of the thieves driving the car northbound through the Golden Glades interchange. Then, after Kerdyk called Mercedes to have the built-in GPS tracking system activated, Rios followed the pings to a gated neighborhood in Pembroke Pines.
Rios says he had knocked on about 20 doors along one street before breaking for that fortuitous slice.
Within days of the theft, the purloined Mercedes, valued at $50,000, had a new license tag, new VIN number and a phony title, and was sold via Craigs List for $16,500 to a Miramar woman. She is now without the car or her cash, says Rios.
The car thieves are still on the loose, and may be part of a Broward-based gang that had been targeting luxury vehicles in the Gables and other areas. Often, say police, thieves are alerted to unlocked cars by side mirrors that are not folded down.
For his dogged detective work, Rios was honored by the department as Officer of the Quarter and presented with a plaque at the Nov. 10 city commission meeting. Chief Ed Hudak praised “the tenacity of the detective” in pursuing the case.
Kerdyk was “super happy” to get his car back, says Rios, a cop for 22 years. Meanwhile, the hunt for the thieves goes on. “In 98 percent of cases, the cars have the keys left in them, but that does not deter Rios and [other officers] from doing what they can in breaking up this ring,” says Hudak.