Car belonging to missing Florida Lyft driver found in North Carolina after chase, officials say

Gary Levin, 74, last heard from Jan. 30

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. – The car belonging to a missing 74-year-old Lyft driver from Florida has been found in North Carolina after a high-speed chase, according to officials.

South Florida authorities shared on social media Thursday that no one has been able to reach Gary Levin since Monday, Jan. 30. His vehicle, a red 2022 Kia Stinger had last been seen in Gainesville on Wednesday.

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Authorities told WLOS in North Carolina, however, that his vehicle was involved in a high-speed chase that ended in a crash.

According to police, the driver of the vehicle, Matthew Scott Flores, is accused in a homicide case and fled from authorities in Florida. A North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper said Flores took police on a chase through several counties.

74-year-old Gary Levin (West Palm Beach Police Department)

WPEC in West Palm Beach said the family confirmed that the vehicle belonged to the missing man.

Authorities are investigating how Flores obtained the missing Lyft driver’s car — Levin’s family said they do not know whether Flores was the passenger Levin picked up in Delray Beach on Monday. John Eason, the police chief in Wauchula, Florida, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that officers are heading to North Carolina in hopes of interviewing Flores about the Jan. 24 killing and the missing Lyft driver.

“Our biggest concern at this point is finding and identifying where Mr. Levin is at,” Eason said. “A lot of that depends on whether the suspect cooperates with us.”

Flores is facing a second-degree murder charge and other counts stemming from the fatal shooting last month of Jose Carlos Martinez in Wauchula. A woman who Eason said assisted Flores in fleeing from police, Stephanie Velgara, will be charged with being an accessory after the fact in the Martinez killing.

Family members told West Palm Beach ABC affiliate WPBF that the case just “doesn’t add up,” and they don’t know who was driving the car when it was spotted in Gainesville this week.

“Lyft said at this point, they can only share that he was active on the app at 1:22 p.m. At that point... they won’t tell us, did he pick someone up? Did he drop someone off? We don’t know who this person is,” Levin’s daughter, Lindsay DiBetta, told WPBF.

According to WPEC, Lyft told the missing driver’s family that he picked up a fare in in Delray Beach with a scheduled drop off in Okeechobee at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 30.

DiBetta said the family was told by Lyft that the ride was completed sometime after 4 p.m. He also spoke to friends by phone around 4 p.m. that day and “all seemed well,” Dibetta said.

But almost immediately, something went wrong, she said. His phone was turned off and no one has heard from him since then.

Anyone with information on Levin’s whereabouts is urged to contact police at 561-799-4445.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.