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Car thief suspect arrested, car found thanks to combo of tech devices

Police credit combination of technology with helping them arrest car thief suspect Tony Nathan Cota.
Palo Alto Police Department

An expensive luxury car left unattended with its key in the ignition was apparently too tempting for a man police say drove off in the car -- but the alleged car thief probably wishes he had picked a different vehicle.

After the 2013 Audi S-5 coupe -- a car that sells new for about $52,000 -- was stolen from downtown San Jose Monday evening, police were able to track the car electronically to nearby Palo Alto.

The owner -- who had left the key to the car in the ignition -- had also left an iPhone phone inside.

Using the phone’s “Find my iPhone” function San Jose police say they were able to determine the car had been driven to the Town & Country Village, an upscale mall about 18 miles away. San Jose police alerted Palo Alto police, who sent their officers to the shopping center.

Besides having the iPhone inside, the Audi was also equipped with a LoJack Theft Recovery system, which helped officers find the stolen car in the expansive mall’s parking lot.

The suspect was not in the car, but when officers started looking through the Audi for evidence, they saw a man fitting the suspect’s description walking into a nearby CVS Pharmacy.

Officers arrested the suspected car thief -- identified as 44-year-old Tony Nathan Cota, of Fresno -- without incident inside the store.

Because police say Nathan had methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia on him when he was taken into custody, besides being held on auto theft charges, Nathan is also being held on drug charges.

“Police credit the “Find My iPhone” app and the LoJack stolen vehicle recovery system in leading them to the suspect in this case,” Palo Alto police Lieutenant Zach Peron, said in a statement.

“We encourage people to enable security features in their portable electronic devices whenever possible, and to familiarize themselves with how to use it.”

After making the arrest, police released the Audi to its owner -- a man they’re describing as an “appreciative victim” -- with the iPhone still inside the glove compartment.

The car was not damaged.

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