Three men have been arrested in an organized car theft operation where they would steal dozens of vehicles without breaking a sweat or even breaking a window, police said.
“We never noticed any glass on the floor. There was nothing to indicate that anything was done by force,” said Major Michael Santiago, a spokesperson with the Lauderhill Police Department.
The three men accused of being part of the enterprise are Daronn Grant, Ryan Hamitt and Stokely Lawrence. Police say they used an electronic key programming device to help them drive off with over 90 cars, including many near the Cascades apartment complex in Lauderhill.
“It’s pretty extensive. We’re looking at 91 vehicles that were identified as being stolen, however, only 15 were recovered at this particular time,” Santiago said.
According to investigators, the trio was part of an operation that would buy totaled vehicles at auction and then remove their VIN numbers.
“Those totaled vehicles they were not intending to rebuild those vehicles, but in fact were actually stripping the VIN numbers from those vehicles. What they did from there was take those VIN numbers and through certain processes they started getting rebuilt titles for specific cars,” Santiago said.
Police say they then sent each other text messages with images of similar cars that they were scouting out. Then they would allegedly contact a locksmith to make what they called “silver keys.” With that special key, they could unlock the car doors without force.
“Once they were inside the car, they were able to use a device that would plug into the computer system of the car and they would reprogram a key fob and then they would drive off with these vehicles,” Santiago said.
Detectives described how the stolen cars were then sold at about $10,000 each and looked legitimate on paper with the rebuild titles, even though the cars were stolen. The county case on this scheme began in 2017 and the latest racketeering investigation involves the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and state prosecutors.
Grant, Hamitt and Lawrence are facing multiple charges of grand theft auto and racketeering.