BROOKSVILLE – Car thieves are zero for two in passing through Hernando County after Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol stumbled upon a stolen SUV while refueling a Brooksville gas station.
According to the FHP, Troopers Kelly and Nottingham were recently part of an investigation involving two stolen cloned Cadillac Escalades. One was recovered during a traffic stop on I-75 in Hernando County and the other was located at a car dealership in Tampa. The former owner of the dealership, 39-year-old Yajaira Martinez was charged in that case.
On Monday, Troopers Kelly and Nottingham were refueling at the Racetrac gas station at I-75 and Cortez Blvd, when they observed an unoccupied white Chevy Suburban with a dealer tag. Trooper Kelly says he noticed unusual details about the vehicle that were not consistent with a dealer vehicle, so he tried to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). That's when he noticed the windshield to be completely tinted and the VIN to be covered by a piece of paper.
At that time, the suspects 34-year-old Yordan Diaz Benitez and 30-year-old Leidy Castrol Velazquez, both Cuban Nationals living in Tampa, exited the RaceTrac and entered the Suburban. That's when the Troopers made contact with the suspects and began their investigation.
Trooper Kelly says the VIN stickers and plates were all tampered with, removed, or altered and the VIN listed on Benitez's insurance card did not match a vehicle. Upon further investigation, the vehicle came back as being stolen out of Tampa and registered to the same dealership involved in the prior theft cases. Both suspects were detained, and a K-9 Unit responded to check the vehicle for illegal narcotics.
During a search, Troopers discovered several packages of THC edibles and a box of THC vape cartridges that belonged to Velazquez. Inside the vehicle and on Benitez's person, Troopers found a total of 12 stolen and altered credit cards. Benitez admitted to using the stolen cards to make purchases throughout Florida.
Benitez was booked into the Hernando County Jail on multiple counts of Fraud, Impersonation, Counterfeiting, Forgery, Drug Possession, Misuse of a Dealer Tag, and Vehicle Theft. Benitez remains behind bars on a $143,500 bond. Velazquez was charged with Drug Possession and also remains behind bars on a $5,000 bond.