UPDATED: Man arrested in Payson after allegedly stealing SUV from St. George car dealership

Stock image | Photo by Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Thanks to the fast action of two Utah police departments and OnStar, an SUV was safely returned to a St. George auto dealership this week after a man allegedly swiped a key and drove the vehicle north.

Update 8:55 p.m. Report clarified regarding the vehicle’s OnStar activation. See editor’s note at the bottom of this report.

The 2017 Chevrolet Suburban that allegedly was stolen from Auto Passion Team on Dec. 18, 2018, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of Auto Passion Team, St. George News

Employees from Auto Passion Team, an auto dealership with two locations in St. George, noticed Tuesday that a 2017 Chevrolet Suburban LT had gone missing from the lot behind the Wendy’s on St. George Boulevard. Before the vehicle was stolen, 47-year-old Anthony Lewis, of Henderson, Nevada, was the last person to attempt to test drive the suburban more than 24 hours earlier.

Kasey Del Toro, co-owner of Auto Passion Team, said he was out looking at Christmas lights with friends and family when he stopped to look at the lights on the car dealership’s lot. Nearly nine minutes after they left, Lewis allegedly stole the vehicle.

An employee from Auto Passion Team denied Lewis the opportunity to test drive the vehicle the day before because he didn’t have a driver’s license on him, Del Toro said.

“Without a driver’s license, we do not allow it,” he told St. George News, adding that Lewis tried to get the sales associate to let him test drive it together down the street to a hotel he was staying at to retrieve his driver’s license.

Del Toro said Lewis was particularly interested in the Suburban and thoroughly looked inside the vehicle, during which time he swiped a second key on the vehicle’s key ring.

Employees identified the person who stole the vehicle as Lewis through security footage because he wore the same exact clothing and gloves as he did on the day he wanted to test drive the Suburban, Del Toro said.

After giving the security footage to the St. George Police Department, Del Toro said police officers quickly identified the suspect as Lewis, with whom they have reportedly had previous run-ins.

Screenshot of security footage showing Anthony Lewis of Henderson, Nevada, at Auto Passion Team in St. George, Utah | Image courtesy of Auto Passion Team, St. George News

St. George News reported a separate arrest of Lewis nearly a month ago when he was charged with a third-degree felony offense of retail theft. Lewis allegedly stole two flat-screen TVs and other merchandise from the Washington City Walmart. He apparently told officers that he forgot to pay for the TVs before leaving the store.

Read more: Suspect arrested with 2 large TVs from Walmart, tells officers he ‘forgot to pay for them’

After Auto Passion Team posted to its Facebook page about the theft, employees received a tip from someone saying they saw Lewis filling up on gas in Richfield. According to an email sent to St. George News about the incident, Lewis was apparently asking for directions to Oklahoma.

Del Toro said stakeouts for the vehicle were set up along Interstate 15 near northern Utah and along Interstate 80 toward Colorado because those are the directions Lewis would need to take to exit the state. When the stakeouts produced no results, the Suburban’s OnStar feature was activated, which only certain vehicles like GMC and Chevrolet have.

Del Toro said the dealership contacted OnStar to activate the feature as soon as they had the chance after going through the required police protocols surrounding the theft report.

“They disabled the car and gave us the GPS coordinates,” Del Toro said. “When the police were surrounding it, they were sure happy that the guy was having car troubles getting it started.”

According to a probable cause statement written by an officer with the Payson Police Department, the officer located Lewis and the vehicle outside of a Pizza Hut in Payson. Once the officer advised Lewis that the vehicle was stolen, the officer wrote that he “became defensive and stated he had just purchased the vehicle out of Saint George.”

After not being able to provide documentation of the purchase and learning that Lewis allegedly stole the vehicle, the officer arrested Lewis. He was booked into Utah County Jail.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Ed. note: On first publish, this report stated that the Auto Passion Team dealership didn’t activate the OnStar feature immediately because the vehicle’s free trial for the feature had already ended. The report has since been revised on clarification from Kasey Del Toro that the dealership had to go through proper police channels before the OnStar reactivation could occur.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Comment December 22, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    He should’ve just gone down to the mercedes dealership. I see no reason not to let a classy fellow like that with a hoody and gloves test drive an $80,000 benz

  • mshaw December 22, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Looks like jumpsuit he was wearing matched the suburban he stole he probably thought he would blend in. It did look all ________ up.

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