Trio arrested in series of phone thefts in downtown area, police say

Police: Nearly 20 phones stolen from downtown bar

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - In what one Orlando police detective described as a series of fortunate events, officers were able to arrest a trio in a series of cellphone thefts. 

Lucio Alain Rodriguez, 43, Josue Acosta, 28, and Adrian Gutierrez, 27, were all arrested Saturday night. 

"A lot of different things had to work in our favor and it did," said Detective Nick Collins. "We believe this group that we made the arrest on is responsible for a very organized pickpocketing group. They are very sophisticated."

The detective has been investigating the rise in cellphone thefts in downtown Orlando since last March. He says thanks to a new "nightlife manager" downtown, communication between the Orlando Police Department and the bars and nightclubs grew stronger. 

Together, bar owners provided Collins with surveillance video of the men they believe were involved in the ring. Through that video, Collins said he was able to identify them. 

However, he had no idea when just doing standard surveillance Saturday night, one of them, Josue Acosta, walked right by him. 

"I was just kind of educating the officers who were working why I was out there and he just walked by," Detective Collins said. "It was kind of one of those things like, 'Oh, that's one of them right there,' and then it started from there." 

Collins said he and the other officers followed Acosta, who they say went behind an electrical box. The detective believes he was presumably switching out the SIM card of a cellphone he'd just stolen. 

"They take out your SIM card first of all so you couldn't track your phone and then they put the phone in 'airplane mode' so all of your tracking capabilities are gone," he said.

The officers continued surveillance until they say Acosta met up with Rodriguez and Gutierrez. 

This was around the same time the manager at The Attic on Pine Street reported 20 patrons had just said their cellphones were stolen. 

"They come in, hit the place hard for literally five minutes and that's it," said The Attic manager Brandon Greers. "As soon as I get one girl that lost their phone, I hope it's the only one and then once the second girl comes and says, 'I lost my phone,' I know they are in there."

OPD officers eventually caught up with the trio of suspects, pulling them over.

"There was a traffic stop and 17 cellphones were recovered," Collins said. 

All three suspects were arrested and charged with grand theft, dealing in stolen property and possession of burglary tools.

The suspects bonded out of jail only to be arrested again hours later, after more victims came forward, according to Orlando police.

Officers said the trio is from South Florida, and that more people may be connected to the crimes.

"My experience tells me they probably started there and probably when they were chased out of the Miami area, that's what brought them here," he said. "There are more people in this group we are aware of and we are getting more charges this week."

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