Teacher arrested at local high school over issue with son’s cell phone

Justin M. Coleman

A teacher wanted on an outstanding warrant was arrested at an area high school early Tuesday morning after his ex-wife claimed he took their son’s cell phone and refused to return it.

Justin M. Coleman, 35, of Tavares, was taken into custody at Leesburg High School shortly after 8 a.m. and transported to the Lake County Jail. He was charged with petit theft and released a short time later on $1,000 bond. He is due in court Oct. 23 at 8 a.m. to answer to the charge.

Coleman’s ex-wife met with a Tavares police officer on Sept. 20 and claimed that he had taken a phone she purchased for their son for disciplinary reasons and had refused to return it. She said she had made several attempts to get the phone, which she is still paying for, and “is tired of waiting,” a Lake County Sheriff’s Office report states.

The woman said she also believed Coleman had reset the phone and changed the Apple ID because it was no longer showing up on her account. She claimed a similar incident took place last November when Coleman allegedly took their daughter’s phone and didn’t give it back until he was made aware that “depriving someone of their property was considered theft,” the report says.

The Tavares officer called Coleman on Sept. 20 and left a message but didn’t get a return call. He also attempted to speak with Coleman at his residence in the 2200 block of Martin’s Run, but no one answered the door, the report says.

Coleman’s ex-wife spoke with the officer on Sept. 26 and said the phone still hadn’t been returned. She said one of her children had just texted Coleman and he was at his residence, so the officer went to his house at about 7 p.m. But either no one was home or “no one would come to the door,” the report says, noting that vehicles belonging to both Coleman and his wife were in the driveway at the time.

The officer returned to Coleman’s residence the following morning at 2 a.m. and reported that both vehicles were in the driveway. He said he “rang the doorbell for approximately 10 minutes” and again, “no one was home, or no one would come to the door,” the report says.

Coleman’s ex-wife provided a written statement with the intent to prosecute and since the officer hadn’t been able to make contact with him, as well as the fact that “he should still be aware that depriving someone of their property is considered theft,” a warrant was issued for Coleman’s arrest, the report says.