HomeCar InsuranceMore than two dozen charged with running high-end car theft ring

More than two dozen charged with running high-end car theft ring

Investigators said 27 suspects including one Central Florida man, were all involved in illegally profiting from the theft and sale of luxury vehicles, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


FDLE said on Monday the racketeering ring targeted luxury vehicles from brands like Porsche, Land Rover, and Maserati over a five-year period. “The five-year investigation involved multiple agencies and was called “Operation Gone in 60 Days.”

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According to a news release, the investigation began in July 2018 when agents began investigating allegations of Florida commercial driver’s Licenses (CDLs) was illegally distributed to drivers who had not completed the required training courses.

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Authorities said one of the suspects involved in the crime ring is from Central Florida.

Jose Luis Hernandez-Mercado, 26, of Kissimmee is wanted for grand theft of a motor vehicle, dealing in stolen property, and possessing a motor vehicle with an altered VIN.

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The crime ring was issuing fraudulent Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) to high-end vehicles obtained through fraud or theft, selling the vehicles below market value. They would fraudulently assign tags, defrauding customers by purporting to issue automobile insurance, investigators said.

According to the FDLE, the suspects would illegally acquire the vehicles using couriers, fake names, and fraudulent payments to “purchase” the vehicles from dealerships, who wouldn’t discover the fraud until after the vehicles were gone from the lot.

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Another scheme saw the suspects keep rental vehicles and file false police reports claiming the vehicles had been stolen. Investigators found that the organization’s leader would generate counterfeit VIN’s to attach to the vehicle to cover up the thefts further, said the FDLE.

Suspects would also sell auto insurance to customers purchasing the stolen vehicles, often resulting in customers receiving an initial policy that quickly lapsed as the suspects kept the actual payments, according to the team of investigators.

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FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass said, “The members of this criminal organization orchestrated a multi-stage scheme to defraud potential car customers at every step of the way, selling stolen vehicles with fraudulent VINs, illegally sourced license plates, and dummy insurance policies.

“This complex criminal enterprise victimized citizens and businesses across the state, but the suspects’ days of profiting off the misery of hard-working Floridians are at an end,” Glass added.

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