When deputies discovered 19-year-old Robert Geroux of Stuartstown PA, at a gas station on Old Kings Road in Palm Coast around 8:35 p.m. last night, he told them a shocking story that started a manhunt for his abductor; drawing in a helicopter, K-9 units and officers from two counties.
Two days earlier, Geroux told deputies, he had been abducted by a man armed with a gun while using an ATM at a Pennsylvania shopping mall. He said the man ordered him to drive south on I-95 to Florida — stopping at automated teller machines along the way until they ran out of gas in the Palm Coast area.
Geroux told deputies that the pair broke down on Colbert Lane. According to the report that Geroux gave law enforcement authorities on the scene, his kidnapper stole his laptop computer and wallet, and then walked into the woods at Graham Swamp — threatening to kill the teen if he left the car. After several minutes, Geroux says he hitchhiked to the gas station.
Believing the story that they were told, and not wanting to lose the trail of the kidnapper, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office commenced a manhunt through the Graham Swamp; calling in police dogs and the Volusia County search and rescue helicopter, Air One.
As law enforcement officials searched into the night, they discovered that Geroux had been reported missing Thursday by his mother, in Pennsylvania. Once confronted with the information that the detectives had discovered, Geroux admitted that his abduction had been faked and that he had set fire to his wallet and clothes himself as part of the kidnapping scheme.
“There was an extensive amount of manpower that was called into service as a result of this man’s reckless actions,” said Flagler County Sheriff Donald W. Fleming. “This resulted in unnecessary expenses that impacted two law enforcement agencies.”
Geroux was taken into custody and the manhunt called off.
The teen is now facing felony charges of making false statements to law enforcement during a criminal investigation as well as filing a false police report and tampering with or destroying evidence.
Geroux was released from the Flagler County Inmate Facility after posting $5,000 bail.