Florida Keys

Thieves are stealing golf carts in the Keys — and cops say one was taken for drug money

Florida Keys police have made one arrest so far in a series of small electric vehicle and golf cart thefts in the Key Largo area since the summer.

Sean Richardson, 26, of Tavernier, is being held on $30,000 bond in Monroe County jail on grand theft of a motor vehicle and burglary charges.

Sheriff’s office detectives say he stole a customized GEM electric vehicle from a home on Ocean Shores Drive in Key Largo on July 30.

Richardson was already locked up in the Keys on an unrelated warrant from Miami-Dade County. He was arrested in jail Wednesday in connection with the vehicle theft after police questioned another man, who is also in jail on unrelated charges, about the case on Monday, according to a detective’s report.

That man told police several people are involved in stealing small electric vehicles and golf carts, and one of them may have sold one to his attorney, according to the report.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Adam Linhardt said three golf carts, including the GEM, have been reported stolen since July.

Both Richardson and the man questioned Monday were in the area the day after the GEM was stolen, Detective Benjamin Elmore wrote in his report. A deputy found the vehicle in a wooded trail on Gun Club Road on July 31. As he drove toward it, a white Ford F-150 pickup truck left “at a high rate of speed.”

The deputy found the truck at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. The other man was driving the truck, and the deputy stated in his report that he was “extremely nervous while talking to him.” Richardson did not give the deputy consent to search the truck.

After Richardson was arrested in early October, detectives asked him about the stolen electric vehicles. He denied knowing anything about them, and said he was in the area July 31 shooting up heroin and the party drug Molly, according to Elmore’s report.

However, after the other man was questioned on Monday, detectives went back to ask Richardson about the case. He told them he stole the GEM from the Ocean Shores Drive house, but did not steal any of the others. He said he was going to sell the car in Homestead for drug money, according to Elmore’s report.

Richardson said he asked his friend, the man questioned in jail, to see if the GEM would fit in the bed of his pickup truck. They backed the truck into the wooded area on July 31, but left quickly when they saw the deputy approach, he told Elmore, according to the report.

Police are asking anyone with information about any of the other stolen electric vehicles to call Elmore at 305-853-3211. Anonymous tips can also be phoned into 866-8477, and tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to an arrest, Linhardt said.

Tips may also be submitted online at www.floridakeyscrimestoppers.com or by text using the smartphone app called P3 Phone. Tips can also be submitted via social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the @CrimeStoppers305 hashtag.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.