The police’s chance to catch the siege of muscle car thieves targeting dealers, car manufacturers

Thieves are using clone keys to steal Dodge muscle car and other high-powered vehicles directly from dealerships and even automakers in Michigan, and then sell them for tens of thousands of dollars less than they’re worth, according to dealers. jurisdiction and court records.

For an Ohio-based theft, it all came crashing down after a US postal worker was arrested in January, prompting authorities to connect several men to apple car thefts. in the Detroit area, home to the country’s largest automakers, including Dodge. currently owned by an international corporation Stellantis.

Investigators later discovered that new Chargers, Challengers, Durangos, and Ram pickups worth between $50,000 and $100,000 were showing up at the Ohio, Indianapolis, and East Cost shipping ports after being sold on street for between $3,500 and $15,000, according to a criminal complaint.

Thieves in the Detroit area are primarily after Hellcat-powered Dodge vehicles, including Chargers and Challengers — “fast cars,” Sgt. Jerry Hanna with Macomb Auto Theft Squad said.

“If a patrol car catches them, they won’t stop and they are faster than patrol cars. They run 150 mph all day,” he said.

Instead of stealing them on the street, they ship them straight out of dealers and assembly plants.

This year alone, about half a dozen vehicles – mostly Dodge Ram TRX pickups – have been sourced from numerous outside an assembly plant in Macomb County.

After increased security measures at some Dodge parking lots, more than a dozen Ford F-150 Raptor pickup trucks in the 2022 model year was scanned from a plant plot in June in the suburb of Dearborn. More than a dozen Ford Mustangs were stolen in early September from the automaker’s assembly plant in Flat Rock, southeast of Detroit.

Thieves targeted Dodges using a hand-held electronic “professional pad” – a locksmith’s tool that can clone keys by plugging into ports inside a vehicle, according to the complaint. state in the Ohio case.

Authorities weren’t looking for the stolen cars when they stopped Devin Rice on January 31 after a postal worker in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, was robbed of a mailbox key with a gun. But court records show a search of his car and later home not only resulted in stolen mail, fake checks, credit and debit cards, but also a Ram pickup, a Range Rover SUV and a Dodge with a Hellcat engine – all stolen.

Rice and others were indicted in federal court in Ohio in June. Jaylen Harris, Lavelle Jones and Hakim Benjamin were charged with conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen vehicles. Rice, Harris and Jones were also charged with mail theft. Their tests are scheduled for next year.

Harris’ attorney declined to comment. The AP left emails and phone messages seeking comment from attorneys for Benjamin, Rice and Jones.

Harris told the FBI that he and Jones communicated via Instagram with people in the Detroit area to retrieve stolen vehicles, according to the complaint. Those thieves are “also selling to buyers in other areas, including Chicago and Indianapolis,” Harris said.

Videos posted on social media show how large-capacity vehicles overtake and evade the police.

A judge stated in the remand order that “Benjamin drove a $95,000 Dodge Challenger 2022 at 120 mph down Ohio Highway 2 on a Sunday evening in February.”

“Ultimately, the Spike strips are also needed to remind Benjamin that the law requires him to obey police orders,” the judge wrote.

About two years ago, police in Ohio’s Ottawa County began noticing explosive vehicles along Highway 2. The sheriff’s office received a call about reckless driving, said Captain Aaron Leist.

“These cars are going 140-150 mph. All have Hellcat engines. We had a lot of goals to pursue. We didn’t catch them all,” he said.

Investigators learned the cars were mostly stolen in the Detroit area and taken to Cleveland. Some were also devoted to Memphis, Tennessee, Leist said.

“We started working with (Stellantis) in early 2022,” he said. “They will call us and tell us we have missing cars.”

A spokesperson for Stellantis declined to comment.

Additional security measures at some parcels of land have included specific fencing, according to law enforcement.

Then, last fall, a dealership’s showroom in northwest Detroit was broken into. Someone drove a Ram pickup through the glass wall of the building and “all the other cars followed,” said Jeff Schneider, general manager at the Szott Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Highland Township. .

“I think they might find some keys in the desk drawer and use them,” he added.

Police tracked down one of the stolen cars, a Durango Hellcat SRT worth about $100,000, in the northwestern suburbs of Detroit. The driver crashed into a brick wall while fleeing. A 2021 Dodge Durango GT, a 2021 Dodge Ram TRX and a 2017 Dodge Charger Hellcat SRT were subsequently recalled.

Authorities arrested four people. They are not believed to have stolen the cars, but they did pay $5,000 for one.

“In the Detroit area, they’re selling them for about $3,500,” Hanna said. “Once they get that money in their pocket, they’ll go out and steal another one.”

For agents and their insurance companies, the cost is high. Even restored cars cannot be sold for their value.

Schneider said his dealer came up with an “old-fashioned” solution: parking boots.

“It’s an incredible deterrent to activity,” he said. “We bring boots to all the Hellcats.”


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