A Queens man who was denied a rental car at LaGuardia Airport Easter Sunday after telling the desk clerk he’d just been released from jail at Rikers Island was really arrested — after he stole a rental car from the parking lot, driving the wrong way over the entryway spike strips and puncturing the tires, Port Authority police said.
Jose Cabreja, 36, was later captured by a Port Authority officer who tracked the car to a nearby street corner using its GPS, then recognized the suspect from a photograph he’d printed off the Hertz Rental Car surveillance system. Cabreja was charged with grand larceny, burglary and criminal trespass, police said.
At about 5 a.m. on Sunday, Cabreja drove a blue Mini Cooper — a car later determined by police to have been stolen in Elmhurst — into the Hertz lot at LaGuardia, police said. He then went to the rental office, where Port Authority spokesman Joseph Pentangelo said Cabreja told the clerk: “I just got out of Rikers. I’d like to rent a car.” As Pentangelo said, that “wasn’t exactly the icebreaker” the folks at Hertz were expecting — and they declined to rent Cabreja a vehicle.
So, Pentangelo said, Cabreja found an Infiniti QX80 being returned to Hertz and, seeing the keys were still in the car, he decided to “take it.”
Driving his second stolen vehicle of the morning out of the lot, Cabreja drove the wrong way over the lot’s security spike strips — puncturing all four tires, officials said. Nevertheless, police said, Cabreja still managed to drive the QX80 out of the airport, only to have it break down near the corner of 83rd Street and Astoria Boulevard.
That’s where, using the vehicle’s GPS tracker, police located it at about 10:30 a.m. The Port Authority officer, Lt. Dan Rhein, then located and identified Cabreja, using the surveillance photo he’d generated from cameras at Hertz.
Police said Cabreja attempted to flee and Rhein caught him at the corner of 83rd Street and 23rd Avenue.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Cabreja is represented by counsel. Arraignment information was unavailable.