According to Monroe County Sheriff's Office officials, Alexander Michael Sardinas, 37, of Tavernier, and a 43-year-old woman from Islamorada tried to enter the Florida Keys in a taxi on Thursday morning, but were turned away at the highway checkpoint for not having proper identification. The Florida Keys are closed to non-residents, due to COVID-19 concerns, through the end of May, and proof of residency is required to get through the checkpoint.
After being denied entry, the two adults approached a 17-year-old girl in the parking lot of a Publix in Homestead, about 30 miles north of the Upper Keys. According to police, Sardinas allegedly threatened to harm the victim, a Florida Keys resident, if she didn't drive them to Tavernier.
The victim drove the man and woman to the highway checkpoint and provided her driver's license with proof of residence, police said. She did not say anything to checkpoint deputies because she was scared, they added.
The teen later dropped off Sardinas at a gas station and the woman at a pharmacy in Tavernier, according to police. She called a family member who then alerted law enforcement, police said.
Detectives found Sardinas near where the victim dropped him off and the woman in Islamorada, officials said. Both allegedly did not deny being in the car with the victim and gave conflicting accounts of how they met her, cops said.
The victim identified Sardinas in a photo lineup and he was charged with kidnapping/false imprisonment. The woman was not arrested, though police said more arrests and charges may be pending in the case. There were no reported injuries.
"I am relieved this suspect is currently sitting in jail and the young victim in this case was not seriously hurt," Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said in a statement.