Members of Motorcycle Gang Charged in High-Tech Auto Theft Scheme Aimed at Jeeps
The organization is responsible for stealing more than 150 Jeep Wranglers worth $4.5 million
Nine members of the transnational criminal motorcycle gang Hooligans have been charged in a high-tech scheme to steal more than 150 Jeep Wranglers and motorcycles using handheld electronic devices and stolen codes.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office at the U.S. Department of Justice, Court records show that the organization has stolen roughly $4.5 million dollars' worth of Jeep Wranglers in San Diego County, California, since 2014.
Hooligans members used sophisticated technology to disable security systems and steal the vehicles in a matter of minutes in the middle of the night. From San Diego County, they would transport the vehicles to Tijuana, Mexico. The vehicles were then either sold or stripped for parts.
"The joy ride is over for these Hooligans," said Deputy U.S. Attorney Mark Conover. "For many of us, our cars are our most valuable possessions. These arrests have put the brakes on an organization that has victimized neighborhoods in a different way – by stealing something very personal. Something that required a lot of sacrifice to purchase."
"Through the remarkable diligence and work ethic of Regional Auto Theft Task Force detectives, and the inter-agency cooperation with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office, a powerful case has been brought against the Hooligans gang," said California Highway Patrol Captain Donald Goodbrand. Goodbrand leads the multi-agency Regional Auto Theft Task Force, which cracked the case.
"The work of law enforcement and crime fighting is 24/7," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum. "The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to work day and night to stop these large-scale international crime rings in order to protect our neighborhoods and the assets that are central to the everyday lives of people in our community."
According to the indictment, the gang members targeted specific vehicles days before actually stealing them. They would get the vehicle identification number beforehand as well as secret key codes allowing them to create a duplicate key for the individual vehicle in question. During the theft, the gang members would disable the alarm, use a handheld electronic device to program the duplicate key, and finally drive away.
The gang members have been charged with conspiracy to commit transportation of stolen vehicles in foreign commerce, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.