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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Suspect arrested after allegedly stealing license plate off abandoned car

A Fruitland Park man was arrested for theft after admitting to taking a tag off a seemingly abandoned vehicle during a traffic stop.

Gary Alan Stokes
Gary Alan Stokes

A deputy received information regarding a gold Mercury four-door passenger car showing as stolen out of Lake County traveling southbound on U.S. Hwy. 441 around 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, according to an arrest report from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. 

The deputy observed the vehicle, later found to be driven by 49-year-old Gary Alan Stokes, making a right turn onto Spring Lake Road from the highway traveling westbound. He caught up to the vehicle near Poinsettia Drive. At that point, he was able to confirm the tag while the vehicle made a right turn onto the property of 2307 Spring Lake Road, the report said. 

A traffic stop was then conducted on the vehicle, leading the deputy to speaking with Stokes. He advised Stokes that the Florida tag attached to his vehicle was showing as stolen, and Stokes stated that he was unsure of where that tag had come from. The female passenger was also unaware of why that tag was attached to the vehicle, the report said. 

Another deputy reiterated to Stokes that the tag was stolen and where it was stolen from. After the deputy explained that he would go review video footage in attempts to identify who stole the license plate, Stokes spontaneously uttered that he believed that car was abandoned on top of the Tavares parking garage. Therefore, he took the tag to put on his vehicle so he would be able to drive around, the report said. 

A query of Stokes’ name revealed a Marion County warrant for two counts of burglary unoccupied structure and two counts of larceny petit theft. It also revealed two prior theft convictions, one theft of property in April 2000 and another in January 2001 in Texas, the report said. 

The Texas native was subsequently arrested on charge of petit theft (third or subsequent offense) and for the warrant charges. He was transported to Lake County Jail and released after posting $13,500 bond.

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