On June 21, 2022, a 2010 Nissan Maxima was reported stolen to this agency. The owner had left the vehicle parked on the shoulder of Highway 27 North in front of the Race Trac gas station located at 24224 Hwy 27 N, Lake Wales due to mechanical issues. Witnesses later saw a white tow truck removing the vehicle from the area.
On September 12th, Detectives learned from the owner he had been contacted by a local tow company regarding his vehicle. Jesus Melendez (H/M, 07/02/1990) from J & M Towing (1017 Ronlin Street, Haines City) sent a letter to the victim stating the vehicle had been towed at the gas station manager’s request. This was false information as Race Trac management confirmed they do not have vehicles towed. The letter also told the victim if he paid $735 he could have his car back.
When Detectives spoke with Melendez via telephone, he initially told the same story but when questioned further, he stated he needed his lawyer.
On September 13th, Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Melendez for grand theft and scheming to defraud. Melendez was located and taken into custody. The victim’s vehicle was located at a storage yard operated by Melendez located at 701 Lafoley Street, Haines City where it was recovered and returned to the owner.
There is a high likelihood Melendez has done this before, and there may be more victims. If you believe you are a victim of Melendez’s scheme, please contact the Lake Wales Police Department.
If you have any information regarding this case, please contact Detective Matt Rhoden at the Lake Wales Police Department at 863-678-4223. Or, if you would like to stay anonymous and be eligible for a CASH REWARD through Heartland Crime Stoppers:
Call 1-800-226 TIPS (8477)
From your cell phone, dial **TIPS
Visit the website www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com and click on “Submit A Tip,”
Or download the free “P3tips” app on your smartphone or tablet