South Florida men were identified after collaboration from multiple law enforcement agencies and a mix of methods.
A series of connections — both technological and human — led to the arrest of a pair of South Florida men in three April burglaries on Longboat Key that resulted in the theft of more than $400,000 in property.
Christopher Valdez, a 55-year-old Key West man, was arrested May 29 and charged with residential burglary, residential burglary with the theft of a controlled substance and grand theft of more than $100,000. According to Lt. Detective Robert Bourque, he is being held in Monroe County Jail on a bond of $150,000 and could be further charged as the investigation continues. Longboat Key police made the arrest.
Emery Lorenzo Jr., a 42-year-old Miami man, was arrested June 6 by Miami-Dade Police and was charged with two counts of residential burglary, one count of burglary with the theft of a controlled substance and one count of grand theft of more than $100,000. He was being held in Dade County Jail before he made $50,000 bail on a warrant out of Sarasota. He was released on bond but is the subject of a warrant from Longboat Key police with a $150,000 bail. He too could be charged with additional offenses.
Following the April 27 break-ins at three Longboat homes, local police linked up with law enforcement officers in Naples, Sarasota, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed on May 9 by Bourque, Lorenzo Jr. was law enforcement’s common denominator in the case.
One of the first breaks in the case, according to the affidavit, was security video from two Longboat homes that showed a masked and gloved intruder with a distinctive walking style, described as "pigeon-toed."
According to the affidavit, “This distinctive walking pattern is observed on the security video captured in two of the Longboat Key addresses. This is depicted via multiple surveillance videos.” He was linked to the video.
The affidavit also indicates the investigation found Lorenzo Jr. used a rental car “linked to a known criminal associate” From April 26 to April 28. Longboat Key’s license plate readers recognized the plates of the car, first at 6:46 p.m. and last at 10:13 p.m. on April 27. The same plates were noted by toll booth cameras in Broward County, heading north at 3:30 p.m. and heading south through Collier County after midnight on April 28. An enhanced toll plaza photo showed a passenger in the front seat believed to be Lorenzo Jr. At the time. The driver of the vehicle could not be identified.
Bourque noted that some of the burglaries were done by water and some were done by land. Backtrack to March 29. A U.S. Coast Guard patrol in Collier County sought to inspect a small vessel captained by a man. The vessel bolted and was chased by the Coast Guard. The male abandoned it at the Naples Landing Boat Ramp after tossing what turned out to be a backpack, a fanny pack, a radio frequency scrambler and two screwdrivers overboard. He left the area on foot and drove off in a rented car.
The rental agreement on this car matched that of the agreement on the rental discovered by Longboat Key license plate readers on April 27. And, per the warrant, “The recovered backpack and fanny pack appear to be the same items worn by the suspect during similar burglaries (surveillance video) in Naples and Sarasota over the past few months.” Later, Coast Guard personnel pinpointed Lorenzo Jr. as the suspect who fled from them after analyzing a series of photos.
Bourque said previous burglaries reported in Naples and Sarasota alerted Longboat Key law enforcement to the possibility of the same happening on the island.
“Law enforcement communicates,” Bourque said. “We were nervous about him coming to Longboat Key.”
Lorenzo Jr. had served 10 years in prison for “the exact same thing – high-end burglaries in Miami and West Palm,” Bourque said. Law enforcement reached out to Lorenzo Jr.’s probation officer and obtained his phone numbers. From there, police sifted through call records and found one number that was contacted before and immediately after the burglaries on April 27.
“There is no communication between the two phone numbers prior to arriving to Longboat Key (while subjects traveling together),” the warrant reads.
The number in question belonged to Christopher Valdez. The phone records also indicate that Valdez and Lorenzo Jr.’s numbers connected to a Longboat Key cell tower for the duration of the April 27 burglaries.
Valdez was then identified by two Key West Police Department captains as the previously unknown driver of the rental car traveling through the Collier County toll plaza at 12:03 a.m. on April 28.