EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 20, 2013

'Bait car' catches thief in the act

LAWRENCE — A GPS over the dashboard and a computer and keyboard on the passenger’s seat of an unlocked car proved to be too much of a temptation for Mario Figueroa, police said.

After a rash of car breaks near Central Catholic High School, police put a “bait car” on Auburn Street. Last Friday afternoon, Figueroa, 40, took the “bait,” police said.

Figueroa, of 178 West St., #2, was arrested after police said they found him sitting in the bait car, using a screwdriver to pry the radio out of the dashboard in the 2003 Honda Accord.

Figueroa had the car radio, the GPS, a wrench with four sockets, and three screwdrivers in his possession when he was arrested. He was also carrying a small piece of spark plug, a tool used by car break thieves to shatter car windows and help themselves to valuables inside, Officer Gary Yancey wrote in his report.

Charged with that break, Figueroa is also a suspect in another recent car break at Central and two others caught on video in a parking lot at 125 Amesbury St., Yancey wrote. However, Figueroa has not been charged with any other car breaks to date.

The bait car, loaned to police by Valley Towing, was parked on Auburn Street between Russell and Hampshire streets. Around 11:15 a.m. Friday, police said Figueroa walked by the car, looked inside and then continued walking down Auburn Street.

He took a left on Hampshire Street, but immediately turned around and walked directly to the “bait car.”

Yancey wrote Figueroa “looked around and then entered the unlocked ‘bait car,’ through the front passenger door. At this time, myself and Officer Jose Flores drove to the vehicle and found the defendant in the passenger seat with a screwdriver in his hand prying the radio from the dashboard.”

Both Yancey and Flores arrested Figueroa at gunpoint because he was holding a screwdriver, which could have been used as a weapon. After telling him several times to drop the screwdriver, Figueroa finally did, Yancey wrote.

Figueroa was formally charged with breaking and entering in the daytime to commit a felony and illegal possession of burglarious instruments.

Capt. Roy Vasque, special operations commander, Lt. Shawn Conway, Sgt. Joseph Cerullo and Officer Ariel Montas assisted with the bait car investigation.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill

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