Two men are facing charges after Miami-Dade Police say they slashed a woman's car tire and followed her to steal from her as part of a so-called "Fix-a-Flat Scam."
Cesar Castillo Vargas, 36, and Hernan Trujillo, 46, are both charged with criminal mischief, possession of burglary tools, loitering or prowling and displaying false identification, Miami-Dade Police said.
Both men were arrested and later released from jail. It's unknown if they've hired attorneys.
According to police, the scheme targets customers doing business at financial institutions, mainly women and the elderly. While the victim is inside, the thieves puncture one of their tires then follow them as the tire deflates. The thieves stop and offer to help, giving them an opportunity to steal from the victim, police said.
The arrests of Vargas and Trujillo happened last week, when a detective working a separate case in the area of 25th Street and Northwest 107th Avenue saw Vargas puncture a car's tire in a bank parking lot, police said.
A woman got in the car and drove off, followed by Vargas in a car driven by Trujillo, police said. As they tried to catch up to the woman, they drove on a sidewalk, police said.
The detective was able to catch up to the woman and let her know her tire was punctured. While he was speaking with the woman, one of the suspects tried to puncture another tire on her car, police said.
When the detective detained the suspects, they gave him bogus identifications, police said. Inside their car, the detective found a screwdriver, window punch and a makeshift sharp puncture tool, police said.
"They want to be the heroes, the Good Samaritans. 'Hey, we'll help you out,' and of course, at the time, you put your guard down cause you're dealing with a flat tire in the middle of the road," explained Det. Alvaro Zabaleta. "They just want access to your purse, because they want to take that cash envelope that you just withdrew."
Both men have been arrested in the past for similar incidents and police believe there may be more victims. Anyone with information is asked to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.