Key Largo teens arrested for allegedly breaking into nearly 100 vehicles

Incidents date back to late October

Two Key Largo teens were arrested Thursday following a Sheriff’s Office investigation into nearly 100 vehicle burglaries in the Upper Keys. 

Benjamin Aaron Zelada, 19, was charged with burglary, three counts of trespassing, larceny and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The 17-year-old male is facing similar charges.

Since late October, the Sheriff’s Office took reports of multiple vehicle break-ins with Upper Keys detectives assigned to resolve cases. The area behind the Key Largo Community Park, particularly Laguna Avenue and Bahia Avenue, reported the highest number of incidents.

Upper Keys Detective Sgt. Scott Ward reported that detectives found 89 vehicles burglarized, but not all victims wished to prosecute. Every vehicle was unlocked in all 89 cases. No windows were broken, but in many cases the suspects had to jump over locked gates to get to the vehicles. The stolen items were miscellaneous items commonly found in vehicles such as sunglasses, loose change or cash and electronics.

Detectives were already working the case closely on Nov. 16 when they received a phone call at 5 a.m. from a Laguna Avenue resident who stated his doorbell camera security system captured an image of a burglary suspect. Deputies and detectives identified the man in that video as Zelada based on previous interactions they had with him following a suspicious activity call in the Harry Harris subdivision in October.

Meanwhile, patrol deputies spotted Zelada and the juvenile behind the Holiday Inn. A foot chase ensued and the juvenile was detained. Detectives continued to investigate and eventually warrants were issued for Zelada and the juvenile.

Zelada was arrested at his residence Thursday and the juvenile turned himself into detectives.

The Sheriff’s Office reminds residents to always lock your doors and secure your valuables. That includes vehicles parked inside gated areas as this case demonstrates offenders can often breach small fences and so forth. Every vehicle burglarized in these cases was unlocked. These crimes are typically crimes of opportunity. Don’t make yourself an easy target: Lock your vehicle and secure your home, particularly during the holiday season.

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