Here's irony for you: Last Thursday morning, a construction worker working on an extension at Steve Harris Imports, a high-end car dealership located just south of downtown Salt Lake City, looked around at the showroom filled with Maseratis and Ferraris and asked Tyler Harris if anybody ever tried to steal the cars.

"Nope," said Tyler. "We've been lucky."

Fast forward to lunchtime that same day. A man who police later identified as Steve Syme was walking on the sidewalk in front of the dealership when he noticed a burgundy Ferrari idling next to the sidewalk.

Not only was it idling, it was facing the street, it was unlocked, the driver's side was nearest the passer-by, and no one was around to dicker about price.

For anyone inclined to take something that doesn't belong to them, this wasn't temptation calling — this was temptation on its knees begging and screaming.

The man hopped in the driver's seat and turned right on 800 South. He was gone in 0.60 seconds.

Right after that, Tyler Harris came back from running an errand.

"Uh-oh," said an employee who was shuffling cars in and out of the wash bay. "I think we just lost a Ferrari."

"Why?" asked Tyler.

"Because I just saw the one I parked right there go around the corner, and I thought you were in it."

When car dealers talk enthusiastically about "moving cars," they don't mean like this.

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Tyler Harris, whose grandfather Steve opened the business in 1977, wasn't sure if he'd jinxed the dealership's run of zero Ferrari thefts with his comment earlier in the morning.

But he was pretty sure one of two fates awaited the Ferrari 550 Maranello now missing in action.

One, it had been taken by a sophisticated thief, who would take it to a chop shop and break it down for parts.

Or two, it had been taken by an unsophisticated thief, who right about now was crashing it.

Put somebody used to driving a Camry or a Cherokee behind a V-12 engine capable of 190 mph with rear-wheel drive, and as Harris puts it, "It's easy to lose control."

He crossed his fingers, hoped it was Possibility Two, and winced. At least it wasn't a new one. New Ferraris cost nearly $400,000. The price on the missing one, a 2001 model shipped in recently from California with 9,800 miles on the odometer, was $130,000.

Heavy on the was.

But in less than two hours, the Ferrari was located, virtually unscathed.

According to the police reports, the Ferrari thief had first used it as a getaway car when he left it running in front of a nearby jewelry store long enough to run inside and steal a diamond ring. Then he drove to a pawnshop and hocked the ring, although not the car.

As he drove away from the pawn shop, a police officer spotted the stolen vehicle and pulled it over.

Look for the video re-enactment soon on "America's Dumbest Criminals."

A pleasant, easygoing kind of guy who says, "In the end, they're just cars," Tyler refuses to second-guess or criticize the shop employee who left the Ferrari idling in plain sight.

"We were just shuffling cars. It couldn't have been more than a few seconds," he said. "It was nobody's fault."

"We got lucky," he added. "I was sure we were going to find the car smashed up somewhere — if we ever saw it again."

The third-generation Ferrari dealer looked around the dealership at the dozens of safe-and-sound Ferraris and Maseratis. "We have a very good security system," he said, and then paused. "Especially on the inside of the building."


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.