By Matt Wiley
Several members of the infamous “Felony Lane Gang,” a group of car burglars responsible for crimes across the state, will finally understand the true meaning of their name after being arrested in New Tampa.
According to the Tampa Police Department (TPD), six members of the “Felony Lane Gang” were arrested on November 5, following a string of vehicle burglaries across the New Tampa area, from Tampa Palms Elementary north to Hunter’s Green Elementary, and finally ending with arrests at L.A. Fitness, located on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., near County Line Rd.
The TPD release says that around 5:30 p.m., officers received a call about two auto burglaries at Tampa Palms Elementary (6100 Tampa Palms Blvd.). While investigating the first burglary, the report says, officers on the scene received another burglary call from Hunter’s Green Elementary (HGE), located six miles north in Hunter’s Green, off Cross Creek Blvd.
The report says that after arriving at HGE, investigating officers were approached by two juvenile witnesses who described the vehicle driven by the burglars as a black Ford Flex. Recognizing the burglary pattern of the “Felony Lane Gang,” officers were dispatched to LA Fitness, less than three miles away on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. at County Line Rd., as a common thread of previous “Felony Lane” offenses targeted women who leave their purses in their cars while they are at the gym.
According to numerous published reports, the “Felony Lane Gang” derives its name from its use of the furthest bank teller lane to use credit and debit cards stolen from purses in vehicles. Often, the group, which reportedly originated in Miami, will have the driver wear a wig to disguise themselves as one of the victims. A Google search for the “Felony Lane Gang” turns up results from across the country of similar crimes. Officers patrolled the LA Fitness parking lot and spotted a black Ford Flex, the report says. While conducting an investigatory stop, officers noticed the smell of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. The vehicle’s four occupants were detained and a purse from one of the reported auto burglaries was discovered. During an interview, officers learned that the group also had a surveillance vehicle in the parking lot, which also was found and the occupants were detained. The suspects confessed to burglaries in multiple counties, including Hillsborough and Pasco.
The suspects arrested include 37-year-old Thelma Erevia, of Pompano Beach, who was booked at the Pasco County Detention Center in Land O’ Lakes after confessing to burglaries in Pasco and currently is being held on a $44,000 bond for eight counts of auto burglary and two counts of fraudulent use of a credit card.
Also arrested were Keith Taylor, 26, of Ft. Lauderdale, who was released on a $16,250 bond for five counts of burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, two counts of being in possession of burglary tools, one count of third degree grand theft, one count of petit theft and one count of habitually driving with a revoked license; Dwight Higgins, Jr., 18, of Lauderhill, FL, who was released on a $10,750 bond for five counts of burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, one count of third degree grand theft, one count of first degree petit theft and one count of petit theft; Christopher O. Pierre, 23, of Ft. Lauderdale, who was released on the same bond for the same crimes as Higgins; and Jorane Desilus, 18, of Deerfield Beach, who was released on a $10,500 bond for five counts of burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, one count of third degree grand theft and one count of petit theft. Also arrested was Aleshia M. Tucker, 18, although no further info was available about Tucker at our press time.
TPD offers several tips to avoid auto burglaries. First and foremost, lock your doors and keep valuables out of sight. Second, lock your doors when pumping gas — “Felony Lane” members have been known to sneak into cars while drivers are pumping gas. Third, be careful in daycare parking lots. Thieves know that moms have their hands full with kids and diaper bags and sometimes leave their purses in their cars. The same goes for gyms. If a thief sees a woman walking into a gym without a purse, they assume that the purse was left in the car.
TPD recommends that “if something doesn’t seem right,” call the non-emergency police line at 231-6130. Many times, citizens’ hunches are correct.