Feds Bust Major Car Theft Ring They Say Stole Dozens of Hellcats
Almost all of the vehicles involved are either Hellcat-powered or V8-powered Stellantis products that investigators said car thieves nabbed without much effort.
The number of car thefts from dealerships and auto manufacturers' lots has risen lately. Thieves using "pro pads,” a locksmith’s tool, have stolen more than 600 high-performance vehicles in 2021 alone according to the FBI, primarily Hellcat-powered Stellantis products. Authorities now say they've busted a group around Detroit and Cleveland associated with several high-profile thefts. The ring allegedly flipped dozens of stolen vehicles, using them to conduct other crimes and evade police.
In an affidavit from May obtained by The Drive, federal authorities detail alleged crimes by four men accused of stealing cars. Members of the group, most of them Cleveland natives, are accused of conspiracy, interstate transport of stolen motor vehicles, theft of U.S. mail, aiding and abetting, robbery, and possession of a machine gun. The vehicles flipped by the group are almost exclusively Hellcat-powered Ram TRXs, Jeep Trackhawks, Dodge Challengers/Chargers, and more.
Thieves like Hellcats in particular because they are fast. Faster than a police cruiser, at least. The affidavit states that one suspect "bragged that the vehicles were very fast and that law enforcement could not keep up with the vehicles." These pursuits were often recorded by the thieves and posted to social media.
The entire operation—if you can call it an operation—came crashing down after one of the members was arrested for robbing a postal worker at gunpoint. As well as car theft, members of the group allegedly stole mail—among other things—in an attempt to steal checks. One member of the group was arrested following the robbery of the postal worker and a search warrant uncovered evidence of crimes committed by others from Pennsylvania to Detroit. Three stolen vehicles were also found, two of which were Hellcat-powered.
Information from the cellphones of those arrested reveals how simultaneously asinine yet considered the entire operation was. The car thefts in particular seemed to have some thought put into them. The thieves were aware, at least at some point, that stealing vehicles and transporting them across state lines was a federal crime. A few of the thefts were completed through intermediaries to avoid federal criminal charges. Others, however, were not. Likewise, texts show that the members of the group who stole mail were aware that it was a federal crime and did not want to be implicated in one. They continued to steal mail anyway, of course.
Many of the exploits of the thieves were posted on social media by the criminals themselves—naturally. Some also publicly solicited accomplices in various fraud schemes relating to checks, stolen debit cards, and credit cards on Twitter and Instagram.
The thieves flipped the stolen vehicles for as little as $3,000. The most desirable Hellcat-powered vehicle seems to be the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, which could allegedly fetch $15,000.
As The Associated Press reports, dealers in the Detroit area have been suffering as a result of these thefts. Even if the stolen vehicles are recovered, they are worth a fraction of what they were previously. As the car's electronic security system seems so easily defeated, some dealers have resorted to booting Hellcat-powered vehicles overnight to prevent thefts. Owners of Hyundais and Kias might also want to take this step. Korean cars can be stolen with not much more than a USB cable.
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