Man Arrested On Theft, Forgery Charges After Investigation

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After a four-month investigation, an assault on a police officer and a high-speed chase through the rodeo grounds, Payson Police arrested a 40-year-old fugitive Sunday.

Kevin Benedict of Payson and Tonto Basin was arrested at 10:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26 at a Circle K on Highway 87 after Officer Mike Varga spotted Benedict’s car and recognized him as a wanted fugitive, said Chief Don Engler.

Benedict was wanted on several forgery and theft charges in Payson and had outstanding warrants in the Valley.

In October of 2007, Benedict allegedly attempted to use a forged check at a local bank. When bank officials called police, Benedict left and sped down Main Street.

Police caught up with Benedict on McLane, where he was speeding toward the rodeo grounds. Benedict jumped the car over berms near the rodeo grounds and headed south on Highway 87.

The vehicle’s tire and rim were damaged in the chase and officers tracked the vehicle’s tracks to Oxbow Estates, where the car was deserted and Benedict fled on foot, Engler said.

“He took the car as far as it would go,” Engler said. “We got out and searched for him on foot for several hours.”

Benedict disappeared into the desert.

For the next eight months, Benedict seemingly vanished, prompting police to put him at the top of a special enforcement unit’s list. But the big break was a lucky one, when Varga, by chance, spotted him at a gas station Sunday.

“He was working a patrol shift and he spotted the vehicle,” Engler said. “We knew he had outstanding warrants and we had been trying to locate him for four months.”

Varga was the assigned detective in the yearlong investigation.

“When Varga confronted him with the fact that he knew he was Kevin Benedict, he told the officers repeatedly that he was not, even though officers had a photo that matched him perfectly,” Engler said. When the officers attempted to arrest Benedict, he pushed Officer Lorenzo Ortiz and ran. There was a brief chase on foot before officers arrested Benedict. Benedict allegedly had five grams of heroin and drug paraphernalia on him.

Even after officers fingerprinted Benedict, he claimed they had the wrong man and refuses to admit he was Benedict.

Benedict was booked in the Gila County Sheriff’s Office on charges of possession of narcotic drugs for sale, possession of drug paraphernalia, aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, providing false information, driving with a suspended license and two outstanding felony warrants.

Benedict, who has no permanent address, floats between Payson, Tonto Basin and the Valley, police officials said.

Benedict has two warrants out of Maricopa County for failure to appear in court for possession of dangerous drugs and possession of narcotic equipment, Engler said.

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