$400,000 Worth of stolen luxury vehicles recovered

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force partnered with law enforcement agencies across the Valley to break up an organized crime auto theft ring.

Authorities recently served search warrants that led to the confiscation of 16 stolen vehicles valued at more than $400,000 and the arrest of two suspects.

The crime ring is believed to have been carjacking high-end vehicles in Mexico, switching the Vehicle Identification Numbers and then bringing the cars to Arizona to either conduct more criminal conduct or sell the cars for profit, said Fred Zumbo, executive director of the Arizona Auto Theft Authority.

"What ends up happening with VIN switching it ends up being a fraud committed against innocent victims," said Zumbo. "Not only is the victim out the vehicle but they're out they money that they spent for the vehicle."

The task force was tracking the operation for more than six months, before arresting one of the suspects at his Goodyear home, said DPS spokesperson Raul Garcia.

"We are talking about a transnational criminal organization involved in many areas as far as making money illegally," said Garcia. "The criminal organization uses them to commit other crimes to sell them to make money."

In addition to the 16 vehicles that were confirmed stolen, authorities impounded dozens of additional cars as the investigation continues.

"We believe that we're just scratching the surface on this. That this is a much larger problem than we're aware of," explained Zumbo.

The vehicles which include a BMW, a Mercedes Benz, a Range Rover and other luxury models, range in value from $45,000 to $120,000 and were being sold for a fraction of the price, Garcia said.

They will be returned to their owners in Mexico.

"These vehicles were probably very nice when they were stolen. They've been pretty well thoroughly abused here that they look pretty rough," said Zumbo.

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Stolen vehicles recovered:
2014 BMW X5 M Series
2013 Ford Explorer
2011 Toyota Sienna
2010 Dodge Ram
2003 Ford Mustang, Saleen
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2011 Chevrolet Camaro
2005 Hummer
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser

Vehicles seized:
2001 Chevrolet Tahoe
2002 Chevrolet Silverado
1989 Ford Mustang 5.0
2007 Chevrolet Tahoe
2000 Chevrolet Tahoe
2007 Volkswagen Jetta
1998 Yamaha quad