Thieves steal dream cars in N.Y., reg­is­ter them in S.D.

Po­lice use wire­taps, cell phone tower data, leg work to bust theft ring

Albany Times Union - - EMPIRE STATE - By jim Mus­tian

A ring of savvy car thieves in New York ex­ploited a bu­reau­cratic weak­ness by reg­is­ter­ing many of their ripped-off Lam­borgh­i­nis and Range Rovers in South Dakota, a state that lets peo­ple reg­is­ter out-of-state ve­hi­cles by mail and wasn’t thor­oughly check­ing to see if they were stolen, the FBI said.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in New York brought fed­eral con­spir­acy charges against seven peo­ple this week, blam­ing them for the thefts of 60 ve­hi­cles.

The ring reg­is­tered many of the stolen cars in South Dakota, a state the FBI said con­ducted “fewer or no checks” to con­firm law­ful own­er­ship of reg­is­tered ve­hi­cles com­pared to other states.

The South Dakota Divi­sion of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Fri­day. A spokes­woman for Gov. Den­nis Dau­gaard de­clined to com­ment.

The FBI and New York State Po­lice said they dis­man­tled the crew fol­low­ing a months-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion that in­volved wire­tap­ping, un­der­cover sur­veil­lance in sev­eral states and an anal­y­sis of cell tower data.

The de­fen­dants are charged with fed­eral counts of con­spir­acy and pos­ses­sion, sale and trans­porta­tion of stolen cars.

“They stole from right­ful own­ers and used a crim­i­nal net­work of thieves, fraud­sters and forg­ers to line their pock­ets, all while driv­ing them­selves around in stolen Lam­borgh­i­nis, Range Rovers and other pil­fered prizes,” U.S. At­tor­ney Ge­of­frey Ber­man said in a state­ment. “With our part­ners at the FBI and the State Po­lice, we have slapped a boot onto th­ese fast-paced heists and will now tow the de­fen­dants off to jus­tice.”

In all, the group stole about $3.1 mil­lion worth of ve­hi­cles, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice in Man­hat­tan. The heists in­cluded the theft of five 2017 Nissan Ti­tan pick­ups taken from a deal­er­ship in Tal­la­has­see, Florida, and a Lam­borgh­ini Hu­ra­can stolen in Mi­ami, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

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