An anonymous tip led to the arrest of a suspected kidnapper in Palm Beach County who had been evading authorities for nearly a week, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies had been searching for Phillip J. Pepe Jr., 33, since June 17, when he got into a car parked outside of an IHOP in Oakland Park about 8 a.m. and drove off with a 3-year-old boy inside. The boy’s mother came outside of the restaurant to find her car and son missing, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The unharmed boy and his mother’s car were found within minutes about two miles away, but Pepe Jr. ran off. The Sheriff’s Office’s Special Victims Unit received the anonymous tip that Pepe Jr. was at a hotel in Lantana, but he was gone when investigators arrived.
Information from Pepe Jr.’s hotel reservation led Broward and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Marshals to Lake Worth, where they arrested him. He was booked into the Palm Beach County jail on charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment of a child and grand theft auto, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said.
The Sheriff’s Office has not released additional information.
Pepe Jr. has a pending criminal case in Broward County stemming from an arrest just days before the kidnapping. He crashed a U-Haul truck into a sign on West Oakland Park Boulevard and was driving with a revoked license, an arrest report said.
Pepe Jr. had two fraudulent driver’s licenses with his photo and was found with drugs. He was released from jail on bond a day before driving off in the car with the child, court records show.