Published: Jun 20, 2014 1:54 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 20, 2014 1:54 PM EDT

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Collier County Sheriff's deputies say the arrest of a Golden Gate man on grand theft auto charges Thursday may be the break they need in solving a recent string of thefts of Ford F-250/F-350 pickups around Southwest Florida.

About a dozen of the older model full-sized Ford pickups have been stolen in Collier County over the past three months. Surrounding counties have also seen an increase in similar thefts.

Deputies arrested 19-year-old Emmanuel B. Hernandez for grand theft auto in connection to two stolen vehicles.

Deputies were investigating a report of the theft of a 2005 red F-250 pickup from the parking lot of Whistlers Green Apartments in Golden Gate early Thursday, when they located the stolen F-250 in the parking lot of Noah’s Landing Apartments. Deputies also located a 2002 blue F-350 parked nearby that had been reported stolen sometime Wednesday night or Thursday morning from a residence in the 5000 block of 16th Place Southwest in Golden Gate.

Deputies observed a White Crown Victoria pull in front of the red F-250 and park. Hernandez, wearing white gloves, exited the Crown Vic and entered the red F-250 and searched the front driver’s area. He got out of the pickup and went back inside the Crown Vic and drove away. Deputies conducted a traffic stop and arrested Hernandez, 10630 Noah’s Circle, on two counts of grand theft auto. He was also charged with driving on a suspended license for a fourth time.

In addition to observing him inside the stolen F-250, deputies said Hernandez made statements linking him to both stolen vehicles.

The red F-250 and the blue F-350 had similarities to other thefts in the surrounding area including that the key entrys on both driver-side doors had been punched out and the radios had been stolen.