A well-orchestrated car theft ring has been disrupted by the Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit.
Late last week, members of the gang unit arrested two people and recovered six vehicles over two nights. The unit expected those arrests to lead to others.
The scheme involved several levels of operation. After randomly stealing vehicles, the thieves would drive the cars a short distance, park them and then leave, said Sgt. Brad Marshall of the gang unit. At the end of the night, the thieves would go back and collect all the cars, take them to one central location and then drive them to yet another location, where the cars were sold or transferred to another group, he said.
"They would steal them and stash them. Before moving them they were consolidating them," Marshall said. "Then they'd go back, pick them up again and make contact with whoever was buying or trading them."
After receiving information about the operation last week, members of the gang unit set up a surveillance around Benjamin Franklin Park, 3450 S. 900 East, where they learned stolen cars were being consolidated. Two cars were recovered.
The next day, agents monitored the actions of the car thieves and waited until they brought their fourth stolen car of the evening to the park before making a move.
"When they turned around to drop the car and leave, we lit up and surprised them," he said.
Two men were arrested and four more stolen vehicles recovered. Cars of all makes and models were targeted by the thieves. All the vehicles recovered by agents were stolen earlier that morning, most after being left unattended while warming up in the driveway. Marshall said the two that were arrested were likely planning to move even more vehicles.
Marshall said the bust is significant because it isn't common to recover that many stolen vehicles at once.
Although it was unclear what the thieves planned to do with the stolen vehicles, in similar operations stolen cars have been traded for drugs or had fake titles and licenses made before being sold. Sometimes thieves would simply drive the vehicle for a few weeks before getting rid of it.
"This is their method of making money," Marshall said.There was some gang affiliation with the group involved in these car thefts, he said. Additional arrests and the recovery of more vehicles were pending.