Man charged in vehicle break-ins from all over Hillsborough

TAMPA — Jason G. Zook finished his third prison sentence the day before Halloween.

By Christmas, authorities say, he was back at the crimes that had put him away before: breaking into cars, stealing trucks and running from the law.

Zook, 28, was arrested last weekend and faces more than two dozen charges that detectives say stem from thefts in Tampa, Temple Terrace, at the University of South Florida and in unincorporated Hillsborough County.

Zook typically used a small screwdriver to punch open the door locks of vehicles so he could steal cash, small electronics and purses, investigators say. Police and sheriff's officials say he:

• Broke into two vehicles at St. Joseph's Hospital on Dec. 12. Four days later, a surveillance camera captured him using one victim's credit cards at a Wal-Mart on E Fletcher Avenue.

• Broke into a vehicle at Busch Gardens on Dec. 17. His mother later told investigators she found a credit card belonging to the vehicle's owner among her son's things.

• Stole a Ford Explorer from the parking lot of Lowry Park on Jan. 10.

Four days later, a police detective spotted the SUV on N 30th Street and River Hills Drive, less than 2 miles from Zook's old home.

• Stole a Dodge Dakota pickup truck from USF on Jan. 16. The next day, he stole another truck, a Dodge Ram, one with a loaded Glock 9mm handgun inside.

On Saturday night, sheriff's deputies were watching areas they thought Zook might frequent. Their hunch paid off.

About 8:45 p.m., deputies spotted Zook at the Palm Lake Apartments at 50th Street and Fletcher Avenue.

As they closed in, he bailed out of a stolen car and ran, officials said.

They soon caught him and found the stolen Glock on him. Zook was in Hillsborough County Jail early this week with bail set at $227,750.

Except for cash, "the prospects of victims getting their stuff back are extremely good," Tampa police Cpl. Pete Charbonneau said.

Detectives will contact victims about how to reclaim their property.

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.

Man charged in vehicle break-ins from all over Hillsborough 01/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 9:59am]

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