Authorities have busted an auto theft ring that used New York City as its "giant showroom for stealing cars," taking orders from an international broker who specified what he wanted, down to the model, year, color and accessory package, officials said Wednesday.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the ring was responsible for stealing more than 100 cars, worth more than $1 million, that were targeted for black market sale, mostly overseas.
In all, 14 people were arrested after the year-long investigation that found thieves were targeting Toyota and Lexus cars and SUVs.
One car was stolen from in front of a house on Dekalb Avenue in Brooklyn during the six minutes that a woman had left to drop off her daughter at school.
"This criminal enterprise used the streets of New York City as one giant showroom for stealing cars, " Schneiderman said in a statement.
The alleged auto theft ring operated like an organized group of "Ocean's 11" criminals. The group included an international broker, a local broker, men to steal the cars, a forged document specialist, a locksmith and a Toyota dealership employee who secretly supplied key codes needed to steal certain cars, officials said.
It operated with specificity -- the international broker would place an order with the local broker, detailing exactly what he wanted. The "steal crew" would then fill the order by finding that car in New York City, using keys obtained by the locksmith. The thieves then used portable computers to program the keys to sync to the vehicle's unique code so that it could be stolen without any damage.
Once a car was stolen, it would get forged documentation and would be shipped from a port in New Jersey or Maryland to Africa. Cars not shipped to Africa were sold to buyers in Chicago, officials said.
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