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Fast Food: Man Accused of Stealing Car With Toddler Inside When Mother Ran Into IHOP to Pick Up To-Go Order

man steals car  year old boy florida ihop

Jul. 2 2023, Published 11:19 a.m. ET

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After a dayslong search, a Florida man has been arrested for allegedly stealing a vehicle and kidnapping a 3-year-old boy outside an IHOP, according to authorities.

Around 8 a.m. on June 17, deputies responded to an IHOP in Fort Lauderdale after a mother left the restaurant and noticed her car and son were gone, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

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Officials said the woman arrived at the restaurant to pick up food and left her son in the car while she ran inside.

Moments later, the suspect, 33-year-old Phillip Pepe Jr., is seen in surveillance footage jumping into the car and driving away, authorities said.

Police arrived shortly afterward and they quickly found the vehicle abandoned at a gas station nearby with the unharmed child inside.

While Pepe fled the scene, police quickly identified him as the suspect, authorities said. A perimeter was established in the area and aviation and K-9 units were called in, but Pepe was already gone.

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Deputies received an anonymous tip and went to a hotel in Lantana in hopes of finding Pepe, but he was not there. However, detectives were able to use his hotel reservation to locate him in Lake Worth, WTVJ reported.

On June 22, Pepe was arrested and booked into the Palm Beach County Jail, according to officials.

He faces multiple charges, including grand theft auto, kidnapping and false imprisonment of a child.


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