The New York City Police Department and the Attorney General's office announced the arrest of 14 individuals in a luxury SUV car theft ring, where Toyotas, Lexuses and Acuras were shipped as far as Africa. NY1's Dean Meminger filed this report.
If you own a specific type of luxury SUV, you could have been the target of a sophisticated car theft ring.
The New York City Police Department and Attorney General's office announced the arrest of 14 people Wednesday in a sting they're calling Operation EZ Steal.
"This crew used the streets of New York as their own personal auto showroom to shop for cars they could steal from New Yorkers," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
"Although the crew was particularly active in Williamsburg, the 107th precinct and the 109th precinct in Flushing, they stole from virtually every precinct, going block to block to find vehicles that met customer demand," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The customer demand was coming from Africa. Two so-called international brokers from New Jersey and Maryland allegedly hired car thieves in New York to swipe high end Toyotas, Lexuses and Acuras. The cars were then loaded into cargo containers.
"They shipped them from New Jersey and Maryland and shipped as far away as Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria," Kelly said.
Police say 108 cars were allegedly stolen by the car theft ring over the last year. That's millions of dollars swiped right off the street.
The thieves simply used a key to start the vehicles. After getting the cars' identification numbers, a Toyota employee in Orlando would give them a code in order to get a locksmith to make up a new key.
"When they would identify your car, they would essentially stalk you," Schneiderman said. "They would look for an opportunity to steal your car. There was one woman who took her child to school to come out to only find that her car had been stolen."
Police have been tracking international car theft rings for years.
"We had hoped that taking down two previous cases we would see an overall decrease in thefts in these types of cars," said NYPD Deputy Inspector Joseph Kenny. "What we found is, although there was a decrease, these types of cars were still being stolen."
Police hope these latest arrests will put the brakes on similar operations.