The 24-year-old Davie man brought Ben & Jerry's ice-cream cups and cookies Tuesday afternoon for the kids who gather after school in the green spaces of the Emerald Bay Club apartment complex west of Boca Raton.
He ended up charged with battery, burglary and impersonating a police officer. And a child might have been saved from danger.
Carla Guevara, 32 — an alert, watchful mother of two boys — had never seen the stranger before. About a dozen children, including one of her sons, were playing in the area.
"So I just kept an eye on him," Guevara told the Sun Sentinel Wednesday. "I see the guy holding my neighbor's 3-year-old by the wrist, and walking him two buildings away."
Guevara called out to the boy, and the man let go of the child's wrist. "Then the little boy walked back to me."
The man, and a friend who was with him, left the area but returned 15 or 20 minutes later, carrying a Publix bag containing the ice cream and cookies, according to a sheriff's report.
"He was organizing races and being super nice to the kids," Guevara said. "Even the older kids were eating the ice cream and cookies. It was surprising."
Guevara was alarmed because she has taught her boys, ages 5 and 12, never to accept candy or food from strangers.
"He did the mistake of offering my son ice cream in front of my porch. I said no."
Then the man asked, "Oh, can he have cookies?"
That's when Guevara confronted him: "You are a stranger to me. I have never seen you before. I don't want my son eating cookies from a stranger."
The man backed off, but then returned a moment later and stepped through her sliding glass door. "He said, 'I'm not a stranger. I'm a police officer," Guevara said.
Her husband, Ken Leahy, wasn't buying it.
He repeatedly demanded to see the man's badge and identification. The man said it was in his car, then turned to leave. Leahy followed the man and his friend out of the apartment complex, and they appeared headed toward the shopping plaza with the Publix.
Guevara, meanwhile, already was on the phone with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. The deputy who arrived drove her to the plaza, where she spotted the two men at a hot dog stand.
The man who was playing with the children, Alex M. Fonte, admitted he gave the kids ice cream and cookies, but denied claiming to be a police officer or that he entered Guevara's apartment, according to the sheriff's report.
But when he was taken to a sheriff's substation, Fonte admitted to a detective that he told Guevara and Leahy "that he was a police officer to dispel their suspicions in an attempt to make them feel that their children were safe with a police officer," the report says.
Fonte also admitted holding the child's hand, but denied he was trying to lead him away, according to the report.
Fonte was charged with battery, for touching the 3-year-old boy, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and with burglary, also a third-degree felony, for entering Guevara's apartment. The charge of impersonating an officer is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera said Wednesday that deputies don't know what Fonte's intentions were, but that there was not enough evidence to charge him with attempted kidnapping.
"It did not meet the statute for an attempted abduction… He did not get away with [the child]," she said. "We are charging him with battery for touching the kids. We did get this guy off the street."
Fonte was being held Wednesday in the Palm Beach County Jail on a $29,500 bond.
Guevara said she didn't know what would have happened if she hadn't intervened.
"We were able to keep the children safe," she said. "If you have kids out there, please keep an eye on your kids. It only takes two minutes for a stranger to walk away with your kids."