Nine individuals of the Tijuana, Mexico-based Hooligans motorbike gang are facing federal charges, alleged of stealing 150 Jeep Wranglers in San Diego County, then moving them throughout the border, where they were sold or removed for parts.
“The joy ride is over for these Hooligans,” stated Deputy U.S. Lawyer Mark Conover. “For a number of us, our automobiles are our most important possessions,” he stated. “These arrests have put the brakes on an organization that has preyed on neighborhoods in a different way, by stealing something very personal, something that has required a great deal of sacrifice to buy.”
Conover stated the gang also stole lots of motorbikes.
The indictment accuses that the gang used old-fashioned shoe leather, a high-tech device, and a particular Chrysler car dealership to manage the thefts.
San Diego County dealt with a rash of Wrangler thefts in 2014. Conover says majority of the Jeeps were taken in the middle of the night, and the majority of them were geared up with alarms, yet no alarm ever went off. Cops were astonished about that till they caught a break. On September 26, 2014, a Jeep was stolen from a driveway in Rancho Bernardo, where a security camera revealed the thieves’ technique.
Based on what they saw in the security footage, officers sent Chrysler a list of 20 Jeeps that had been stolen and asked whether anybody had asked for duplicate keys – and sure enough, a duplicate had been released for all 20 – and all from the exact same dealership, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The indictment accuses that the Hooligans would case a particular Jeep days before stealing it, and would take down its vehicle identification number. In some way they managed to get the secret key codes that would permit them to ask for a duplicate key for that specific Jeep. Throughout the theft, the indictment states, the Hooligans would disable the alarms system, program the duplicate key utilizing a portable gadget, then simply drive away. The fact that Jeeps’ engine bays can be easily accessed due to their external latches made the task even easier. (Authorities suggest Jeep owners purchase aftermarket locking latches.).
Three of the gang members have been apprehended. One was already in custody when 2 others were arrested recently, among them at San Diego’s huge San Ysidro border crossing. The six others facing charges are still at large and thought to be in Mexico. Seven are United States residents, while 2 are from Mexico.
The collective value of the thefts is approximated at $4.5 million.