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GPS-Equipped iPhone, LoJack Aid in Arrest, Recovery of Stolen Car in Palo Alto

Tony Nathan Cota, 44. Credit: PAPD.
Tony Nathan Cota, 44. Credit: PAPD.
A car thief chose the wrong car to steal on Monday -- one equipped with LoJack AND ... one with the victim’s iPhone, with GPS tracking software, stashed in the glove compartment, according to police.

The Palo Alto Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center received a call Monday at 5:48 p.m. from San Jose PD requesting assistance with recovering a vehicle stolen within the past hour from South Market Street in San Jose, where it was parked and temporarily unoccupied with the key left in the ignition.
  
San Jose officers said the victim’s cell phone was in the vehicle, and that the “Find My iPhone” app tracked the car to the parking lot of the Town & Country Shopping Center at 855 El Camino Real in Palo Alto, police said. A physical description of the suspect was also given. 

Within minutes, at 5:56 p.m., PA officers spotted the vehicle, a black 2013 Audi S-5 coupe, unoccupied in the shopping center lot.

Officers kept the car under observation until 7 p.m. hoping the suspect would return, but when he did not they began processing the car for evidence.

A few minutes later, a man matching the suspect’s description was seen walking into the shopping center's CVS/pharmacy, police said, and at 7:17 p.m. they arrested Tony Nathan Cota, 44, inside the store. 

Cota of Fresno reportedly had the key to the stolen vehicle in his pocket, along with methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, police said.
  
He was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for suspicion of felony vehicle theft, felony possession of narcotics, and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.  

Police released the undamaged vehicle, with the iPhone still safely in the glove compartment, to the appreciative victim, a man in his 40s, police said. 

Police credit the “Find My iPhone” app and the LoJack stolen vehicle recovery system in leading them to the suspect in this case. 

For more information about mobile electronic device theft and steps you can take to safeguard your property and information, watch “The Epidemic of iCrime,” a 5-minute video produced by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office in 2012. (It is attached to this story.) 

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the PA dispatch center at 650-329-2413.

Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

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