Historic City News reporters have learned that a Leesburg man has been arrested by Lake County Sheriff’s deputies Wednesday following an armed robbery and reported kidnapping at a Flagler County landscaping nursery.
Lake County Sheriff’s deputies have charged Stephen Michael Bell, born 8/4/1990, who resides on Pennsylvania Avenue, with grand theft and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He will face additional charges in Flagler County as the investigation continues.
Deputies responded to Christian Nursery and Landscaping on Bimini Lane in West Flagler County around 11:40 a.m. Wednesday.
The victim, Anthony Sorrentino, 42, told deputies that Bell was visiting with Matthew Freeman, 24, of Ann Street, Lady Lake, at the victim’s trailer.
Deputies reported that Sorrentino and Freeman left Bell at the trailer Tuesday night. When the two returned shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday, Bell brandished a weapon and demanded money.
When the victim complied, Bell then ordered Freeman to drive, with Sorrentino in the back seat, to a local bank where the victim withdrew more cash.
The three then returned to the trailer where Bell proceeded to tie up Sorrentino. Flagler County deputies said Bell reportedly forced Freeman to drive Sorrentino’s vehicle, fleeing out of Flagler County into Volusia County and eventually into Lake County.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office issued a description of Sorrentino’s vehicle and the two were stopped by Lake County deputies at County Road 42 and State Road 19 in Altoona. Deputies reported that prior to being pulled over; Bell threw a firearm from the vehicle.
K-9 Units of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office recovered the weapon. Freeman was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle by Lake County detectives while their investigation continues. He may face additional charges in Flagler County.
“This was not a random robbery and kidnapping. Anytime a gun is involved, it becomes a potentially deadly situation. I appreciate the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in bringing this incident quickly to a close,” said Flagler County Sheriff Donald W. Fleming.
Flagler County deputies said Sorrentino and Freeman served time together in state prison. Bell is thought to be a friend of Freeman who was introduced to Sorrentino Tuesday evening.
Detectives from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office questioned Sorrentino. Lake County Sheriff’s detectives are questioning both Freeman and Bell to obtain additional details on the incident.