Rob Sgobbo, Joe Jackson, and Brendan Brosh, New York Daily News, June 30, 2010
Thieves snatched Toyotas, Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs, Infinities and Range Rovers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to resell in Africa and the U.S., state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
The NYPD, state police and attorney general’s Organized Crime Task Force snared 17 exporters, “steal men,” brokers, a garage attendant and two Toyota dealership employees after a year-long investigation.
The ring is accused of swiping more than 450 vehicles in the past year in a scheme that could have been a sequel to “Gone in 60 Seconds.”
Orders were placed with the “steal crew” specifying make, model, year, color and even accessories.
The crew searched for a car that matched, then lifted it using a key taken from a Toyota dealership or a laptop to reprogram the cars and keys.
The hot wheels were then stashed for a few days at one of four parking garages in the Bronx to be sure they didn’t have tracking devices.
Eventually, the cars were given new vehicle identification numbers and ID tags and shipped via the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in crates marked “household goods.”
Buyers in Senegal paid $25,000 or more for the cars. Others went to buyers in the tristate area as well as Georgia and Texas.