CORAL GABLES, FLA. (WSVN) - A man has been arrested for stealing a motor vehicle after offering to meet with the seller on Facebook Marketplace.
Pablo Rodriguez contacted a man selling a used 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 and asked if they could meet in Coral Gables for a test drive on April 24.
When the seller agreed to meet Rodriguez, they both drove to another location so Rodriguez could surprise his “daughter” at work with the new vehicle.
Rodriguez pulled into a hotel on the 2200 block of LeJeune Road and asked the seller to bring his “daughter” down to surprise her.
The owner of the Mercedez-Benz exited the car before Rodriguez drove off.
“There’s probable cause for grand theft auto,” said Judge Mindy S. Glazer during a hearing.
Officials said Rodriguez has multiple aliases, such as Pedro Horta, and has previously been arrested by Coral Gables Police for the exact same scheme a little over a year ago.
Rewind to March 2021, this time a BMW. The surveillance video is almost identical, the same con man, officers said, the same hotel, no daughter inside and the potential buyer, along with the car, gone.
“He got arrested for grand theft of a vehicle,” said Glazer during that earlier court hearing.
Detectives said Rodriguez has not changed his method of theft since last year after being arrested for the same crime.
“Same location, same method,” said Coral Gables Police Sargent Alex Escobar.
Rodriguez is known for finding high-end cars for sale on Facebook Marketplace and asking the seller to test drive the vehicle.
He would drive the car to a Coral Gables hotel and mention his “daughter” who works at the front desk.
Rodriguez tells the car owner that he is interested in buying the car for his “daughter” and asks them to help surprise her by going into the hotel to bring her outside.
Once the owner of the vehicle is far enough, Rodriguez speeds off with the vehicle.
“It’s a good story, ‘Hey, I’ll help you surprise your daughter.’ We all usually tend to be good people, but what we want to make sure is that you don’t get defrauded,” said Escobar.
Officers were able to recover the car and make an arrest, and it’s back for sale. Detectives said this could happen to anyone, and while you’re selling things online, never let your guard down.
Officials said that some tips to remember when meeting a stranger are to meet in a public place, to always have your belongings in front of you and, if possible, meet in the daytime.
“Please meet in a public place. Please keep your stuff close with you. Don’t, you know, you’re dealing with someone that you really don’t know who they are,” said Escobar.
Rodriguez is being charged with grand theft auto for the second time.
Police believe there could be more victims out there. They’re looking through Facebook to see if there could be more victims connected to different crimes.
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