Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dealership employee at center of $1 million car theft ring

Three men charged in sophisticated theft and resale scheme that officials say netted $1M

Three Detroit men face more than 500 felony charges on claims they netted more than $1 million in a sophisticated scheme to steal cars from the streets, alter vehicle identification plates and resell them, according to a Detroit News report.

The scheme involved an insider at a Detroit area General Motors dealership who made keys to match the VINs, which were visible through the windshields of cars that prosecutors allege the thieves scouted in advance.

Almost 120 cars were then easy to steal, using the keys to unlock them and drive away. Prosecutors called the operation one of the biggest and slickest they had ever seen. Meanwhile, the ring purchased similar, junked cars whose vehicle identification plates were swapped into the stolen vehicles.

The trio is alleged to have gone to auto auctions and circulated fliers in Detroit neighborhoods advertising cash for junked GM vehicles.

The model, year and even color of cars targeted for theft sometimes were based on inexpensive cars the alleged thieves had purchased. Sometimes the trio went shopping for cheap junkers to match something they had stolen.

The dealership employee, whom police declined to identify, has already been convicted of charges brought in 2006 stemming from an investigation conducted by a county auto theft taskforce and General Motors.

Fewer than 20 vehicles have been recovered so far in the 16-month investigation that culminated when charges were filed against the three.



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AUTOMOTIVE NEWS - with a twist