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Postal worker holdup leads to muscle car theft ring arrests:


Authorities and court records show that thieves in Michigan are using cloned key fobs to steal Dodge muscle cars and other high-powered vehicles from dealerships and even automakers and then selling them for tens of thousands of dollars less than they are worth. After a postal worker was robbed in January, police were able to link several men to brazen car thefts in the Detroit area, which used to be home to some of the country’s biggest automakers, like Dodge, which is now owned by the international conglomerate Stellaris. This ended a group of thieves from Ohio.

Investigators then found new Chargers, Challengers, Durangos, and Ram pickups that were being sold on the street for $3,500 to $15,000 in Ohio, Indianapolis, and East Coast shipping ports, according to a criminal complaint. They were worth between $50,000 and $100,000.
Sgt. Jerry Hanna of the Macomb Auto Theft Squad said that thieves in the Detroit area mostly want Dodge cars with Hellcat engines, such as Chargers and Challengers. Hanna said, “These are the fast ones.”
They won’t stop if a police car comes after them, and they can go faster than police cars. He said, “They always go 150 mph.”

Instead of taking them off the street, they drive them right off the lots of dealerships and assembly plants.
This year, about six cars were stolen from a parking lot outside an assembly plant in Macomb County. Most of the cars were Dodge Ram TRX pickups.
In June, more than a dozen 2022 Ford F-150 Raptor pickup trucks were stolen from a plant lot in a Dearborn suburb. This happened after the security at some Dodge car lots got tighter. At the beginning of September, more than a dozen Ford Mustangs were stolen from the company’s assembly plant in Flat Rock, which is southeast of Detroit.

In the Ohio case, the federal complaint says that thieves stole Dodges by plugging “pro pads” into the cars. “Pro pads” are portable electronic tools that locksmiths use to make copies of keys.
When police stopped Devin Rice on January 31 because an Ohio postal worker had been robbed at gunpoint of a mailbox key in Shaker Heights, they were not looking for stolen cars. But court records show that when his car and then his house were searched, they found not only stolen mail, fake checks, and credit and debit cards, but also a stolen Ram pickup truck, a Range Rover SUV, and a Dodge with a Hellcat engine.

Postal worker holdup leads to muscle car theft ring arrests:

In federal court in Ohio in June, Rice and a few other people were charged. Jaylen Harris, Lavelle Jones, and Hakim Benjamin are accused of working together to plan and move stolen cars across state lines. People also say that Rice, Harris, and Jones stole mail. Their court dates have been set for next year.
The lawyer for Harris wouldn’t say anything. The AP called and sent emails to the lawyers for Benjamin, Rice, and Jones.

In the complaint, it says that Harris told the FBI that he and Jones had gotten stolen cars from people in the Detroit area by talking to them on Instagram. In the complaint, Harris said that the thieves were also selling to people in Chicago and Indianapolis.
Videos shared on social media show how the high-horsepower cars outran the police and got away.
In an order to hold Benjamin, a judge wrote, “On a Sunday night in February, Benjamin drove a $95,000 Dodge Challenger at 120 mph down Ohio State Route 2.”

“Spike strips had to be used to remind Benjamin that the law said he had to do what the police told him to do,” the judge wrote.
About two years ago, police in Ottawa County, Ohio, noticed that cars on state Route 2 were revving their engines. Captain Aaron Leist said the sheriff’s office got calls about people driving in a dangerous way.
“They are going 140 to 150 miles per hour. All of them have Hellcat engines. We did a variety of things. He said, “We didn’t catch all of them.”

Investigators found that most of the stolen cars were taken to Cleveland from the area around Detroit. Leist said that some people were also going to Memphis, Tennessee.
“We started working with Stellantis at the start of 2022,” he said. “They would call us and say, ‘We miss these cars.'”
Stellaris didn’t want to say anything through a spokesman.
Law enforcement says that some parking lots have extra security measures like concrete walls.
Then, in the fall of 2017, someone broke into the showroom of a dealership north of Detroit. Someone drove a Ram pickup truck through the building’s glass wall, and “all the other cars did the same,” said Jeff Schneider, the general manager at Szott Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Highland Township.

He also said, “I think they looked in a desk drawer and found some keys, which they then used.”
One of the stolen cars, a Durango Hellcat SRT worth about $100,000, was found in a suburb northwest of Detroit. As the driver tried to get away, he hit a brick wall. A 2021 Dodge Durango GT, a 2021 Dodge Ram TRX, and a 2017 Dodge Charger Hellcat SRT were later found.
The police picked up four people. People thought that when they paid $5,000 for one of the cars, they had bought it, not steal it.

Hanna said, “They sell for about $3,500 in the Detroit area.” “As soon as they get that money, they go get another one by stealing.”
Both dealerships and the insurance companies that cover them have to pay a lot. Even found cars can’t be sold for the same amount they were worth before.

Schneider said that the answer his dealership came up with was “old school”: parking boots. He said, “It’s a great way to get people to stop doing something.” “We gave shoes to all of the Hellcats.”


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