Woman on probation charged with stealing car by hiring a company to tow it from a Gainesville hotel to Ocala

Staff report

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Courtenay Genette Thomas, 40, was arrested yesterday and charged with theft of a motor vehicle and dealing in stolen property after she allegedly arranged with an Ocala towing company to tow a car that was parked at a Gainesville hotel but did not belong to her.

On the morning of May 15, the victim, who was staying at the Extended Stay America (3600 SW 42nd Avenue) saw his 2004 Mercedes in the parking lot as he was leaving the hotel; when he returned about two hours later, the car was gone. The victim told the responding Gainesville Police Department (GPD) officer that the car had a flat tire, and while he was waiting on parts to fix it, he had removed the battery “due to it being a high crime area.”

The victim said he checked with the front desk, and the employee reportedly said that the car was towed by an unknown company and that the hotel had not requested the tow.

An officer reportedly contacted the general manager of the hotel, who said that a woman had called the hotel that morning and asked if her Mercedes was in the parking lot. An employee went outside and told the woman that the car was in the parking lot; she said she was going to have it towed. A short time later, the general manager saw the car being towed out of the parking lot but did not remember which company towed it. There was reportedly no video surveillance in the area.

On May 21, GPD received an alert about the car from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). A deputy said the agency had been contacted by Southside Auto Salvage in Belleview, and the caller said Thomas had used the Pedal app to sell the car to them without a title; the app requires the seller to provide identification and complete a form attesting that if they are not the registered owner, the vehicle was obtained through lawful means. The caller said that after Thomas completed the process through the app, Southside Auto Salvage purchased the car from her for $500 cash at the Extended Stay America and then towed it away. When Southside contacted DHSMV about the car, they learned that it had been reported stolen, and they reported this to MCSO.

The tow truck driver reportedly told law enforcement that he recognized Thomas because she had sold five other vehicles to Southside in the past month, and the driver suspected that she was not the legitimate owner of the vehicles. The driver reportedly provided “numerous” pictures of Thomas, including a picture of her standing by the Mercedes, with the car’s tag in the photo.

The driver reportedly said that Thomas provided the same story every time: either her father or a family member had Alzheimer’s and gave her the vehicle, but she did not need the vehicle. The driver reportedly positively identified Thomas from a photo line-up and provided additional pictures of her; separately, facial recognition software also identified Thomas as the person in the pictures. The driver also gave law enforcement a list of other vehicles sold by Thomas in the past month, and those cases are reportedly being investigated.

The victim said he had never seen or met Thomas.

Thomas has 12 felony convictions (none violent) and 25 misdemeanor convictions (none violent). She has served one prison sentence and was released in 2019, and she is on probation for paying for a motel room with counterfeit bills (the aggravated assault charges described in the article were later dropped). Judge Mark Moseley ordered her held without bond for violating probation and set bail at $40,000 on the new charges.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

  • “The tow truck driver reportedly told law enforcement that he recognized Thomas because she had sold five other vehicles to Southside in the past month,”
    Either the driver was a super slow learner, or he got a percentage of the proceeds but is now protesting complete innocence.

    • It does seem suspicious that the salvage company just kept buying the cars. It doesn’t pass the “smell test” that one person would have that recently deceased relatives leaving cars to them. If she had been an auto dealer it may have made sense but how was the salvage company not suspicious unless theynwere just willing to “look the other way” as they were being enriched but the deals. I’m sure the parts from a 2004 Mercedes will sell for way more than $500 over a period of time.

  • Another golden goose for our SCUMMY public attorneys and judges to keep loose on our once fair community. Just to pay off their SCUMMY law skool loans faster.

    • How about providing proper funding for the Dept of Corrections and proper penalties to be enforced, so that people such as this criminal can stay jailed? It’s always easy to blame the lawyers who are simply working within the system that Florida Republicans (who dominate state government) have set up. Let’s blame those who are to blame not those who are most convenient. Sadly, DeSantis is more focused on unconstitutional bathroom bills than anything of real consequence.

  • Cue up the “This vehicle not for sale” decals posted on the interior glass. And fix the loophole of being able to sell a vehicle without a signed title and notarized bill of sale.

    • It would be fairly ingenious if the person didn’t have to give thier identification. The fact that she appears the have gotten away with it at least 5 times is amazing. Were the cars not reported stolen?

  • She has a skilled trade…
    The United States vocational training department for a social security would be proud…if only this was TAXABLE!

  • How did she get away with selling the first 5 vehicles? I would think that the salvage company should have been suspicious after the 2nd sale not the 6th.

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