MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – A Tavernier man was arrested Thursday after he kidnapped a 17-year-old girl in Homestead and forced her to drive him and a female companion through the checkpoint of the Florida Keys after they were denied entry earlier in the day, authorities announced on Friday.
Alexander Michael Sardinas, 37, faces a charge of kidnapping/false imprisonment.
“I am relieved this suspect is currently sitting in jail and the young victim in this case was not seriously hurt,” Sheriff Rick Ramsay said in a statement. “I want to thank and commend my staff as well as our partners at the Florida Highway Patrol for quickly putting two and two together that resulted in a quick arrest.”
According to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Adam Linhardt, Sardinas and a 43-year-old woman from Islamorada tried to enter the Keys Thursday morning in a rideshare taxi without proper identification or paperwork.
They were turned away at the U.S. 1 checkpoint at Mile Marker 112.5, authorities said.
According to Linhardt, a trooper gave the pair a courtesy ride to Florida City. They then allegedly approached the victim in the parking lot of a Publix on Campbell Road in Homestead at noon.
Linhardt said they targeted the victim because her vehicle has Monroe County plates and a hurricane reentry sticker.
He said the teen told detectives that Sardinas ordered her to drive him and the woman to Tavernier and threatened to hurt her if she refused or touched her cellphone.
Linhardt said the teen provided her driver’s license to deputies at the checkpoint but didn’t alert them about Sardinas because she was scared.
Authorities said the teen continued heading south to a gas station at Mike Marker 92, where Sardinas got out of the vehicle.
Linhardt said the teen drove the woman to a pharmacy and then called a family member, who then notified authorities.
The trooper who drove the pair to Florida City earlier in the day heard the be-on-the-lookout on his radio and recognized the descriptions of Sardinas and the woman, Linhardt said.
He said authorities searched for the pair and found Sardinas near Mile Marker 92 and the woman on Navajo Street in Islamorada.
Linhardt said the pair gave conflicting stories about how and where they met the victim, but neither denied being in the car with her.
The victim identified Sardinas in a photo lineup as the man who kidnapped her.
Sardinas was taken to jail, but the woman has not been charged at this time.
Linhardt said more arrests and charges may come.