PALMDALE – Authorities have identified the driver of the white Kia Optima, which was profiled on Palmdale Station’s “Most Wanted” list for being involved in two smash-and-grab car burglaries around the Antelope Valley Country Club.
James Prizzi, a 42-year-old felon with a 38-page rap sheet, has confessed to committing a string of car burglaries in various cities within a two-week span, authorities said Friday.
“This guy was basically driving along the 14 [Freeway] doing burglaries,” said Lt. Cory Kennedy of the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station.
Prizzi allegedly stole a brand new Kia Optima from a dealership in Ventura and then drove the car to various other areas – including Tehachapi, Lost Hills and Palmdale – burglarizing several vehicles along the way, Kennedy said.
“This is what he does, he breaks into cars, he takes the stuff he wants and he gets rid of it right away because he knows he doesn’t want to get caught with it,” Kennedy said, adding that Prizzi steals credit cards, money and anything else that he can dispose of quickly.
Palmdale detectives began investigating the case after a car break-in at the Antelope Valley Country Club on March 7.
“The suspect pulled in the parking lot, broke into one of the employees’ cars and then took off,” Kennedy said.
Surveillance cameras in the parking lot recorded a white Kia Optima at the scene of the burglary.
Later that day, the victim’s briefcase was found in a trash can on 10th Street West, along with two other purses, which were tracked to a second car burglary that happened near the Country Club, Kennedy said.
Palmdale detectives created and circulated a “Special Bulletin” featuring the Kia Optima and information on the two car burglaries. A Tehachapi police detective who lives in Lancaster saw the flyer, and he recognized the vehicle as being involved in two car burglaries at a Tehachapi school on March 4, as well as a car burglary in Lost Hills on March 5, Kennedy said.
The Tehachapi Police Department caught the car on surveillance video and was able to track its paper plates to a Ventura Kia dealership, where a brand new Kia Optima had been stolen on Feb. 22, Kennedy said.
“Armed with that, the detectives were able to contact the Ventura Police Department, and sure enough, they had arrested an individual in that car for auto theft,” Kennedy said.
The Ventura police had arrested Prizzi for auto theft on March 8, but had not connected him to any of the car burglaries, Kennedy added.
Palmdale detectives put it all together and drove to the Ventura County jail to interview Prizzi, and that’s when he confessed, Kennedy said.
“He basically admitted to doing all of the burglaries. When asked why he drove to Tehachapi he said, ‘I did my prison time there and I thought it was a cute little town,’” Kennedy said.
Prizzi was on probation for burglary. In the past three years alone, Prizzi has been arrested twice for car burglaries, convicted, and sentenced to state prison, Kennedy said. Prizzi had an accomplice during his burglary spree, and authorities are still searching for the second suspect, Kennedy added.
“They were probably using methamphetamines, and he even told us that CHP went in pursuit of him at one point, but he got away from them,” Kennedy said. “He went on a road trip and then he stopped in Palmdale, he shouldn’t have done that.”
Prizzi is expected to be charged with at least five vehicle burglaries, as well as auto theft, and all the cases will be handled by the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station, Kennedy said. Detectives are also working to link Prizzi to at least two more car burglaries in Lancaster that happened around the time of the Palmdale burglaries.
Prizzi is currently in custody at the Ventura County jail, where he has been held on $90,000 bail since his arrest on March 8.