A ring of savvy car thieves in New York exploited a bureaucratic weakness by registering many of their ripped-off Lamborghinis and Range Rovers in South Dakota, a state that lets people register out-of-state vehicles by mail and wasn’t thoroughly checking to see if they were stolen, the FBI said.
Federal prosecutors in New York brought federal conspiracy charges against seven people this week, blaming them for the thefts of 60 vehicles.
The ring registered many of the stolen cars in South Dakota, a state the FBI said conducted “fewer or no checks” to confirm lawful ownership of registered vehicles compared to other states.
The South Dakota Division of Motor Vehicles did not respond to an email request for comment Friday. A spokeswoman for Gov. Dennis Daugaard declined to comment.
The FBI and New York State Police said they dismantled the crew following a months-long investigation that involved wiretapping, undercover surveillance in several states and an analysis of cell tower data.
The defendants are charged with federal counts of conspiracy and possession, sale and transportation of stolen cars.
“They stole from rightful owners and used a criminal network of thieves, fraudsters and forgers to line their pockets, all while driving themselves around in stolen Lamborghinis, Range Rovers and other pilfered prizes,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. ‘With our partners at the FBI and the State Police, we have slapped a boot onto these fast-paced heists and will now tow the defendants off to justice.”
In all, the group stole about $3.1 million worth of vehicles, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. The heists included the theft of five 2017 Nissan Titan pickups taken from a dealership in Tallahassee, Florida, and a Lamborghini Huracan stolen in Miami, according to court documents.
The group sold one of the pickups for $20,000 cash on Craigslist. The FBI says the vehicle was worth more than twice that.
The FBI intercepted several calls placed by the crew’s alleged ringleader, Marvin Williams, who is accused of coordinating the transportation of the vehicles across several states and efforts to evade law enforcement.
According to the FBI, Williams registered 43 vehicles with the South Dakota Division of Motor Vehicles using false documentation. At least 10 of those vehicles had been reported stolen, authorities said.
Williams’ defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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