Five individuals have been charged in federal court for their involvement in an auto theft ring based in Charlotte. The defendants are accused of stealing high-end vehicles worth millions of dollars from dealerships across the United States. According to the indictment, the defendants operated from 2021 to 2023 and engaged in a conspiracy to steal luxury vehicles from various states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and many others. The stolen vehicles were then transported back to Charlotte and sold locally at prices significantly below market value. The defendants used various methods, including posing as customers, swapping key fobs, “smash and grab” thefts, and removing GPS tracking systems, to carry out their crimes. The charges against the defendants carry maximum penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. This case is a result of the collaborative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.
A criminal indictment has been unsealed in federal court, announcing charges against five individuals involved in a Charlotte-based auto theft ring. The defendants are accused of stealing high-end vehicles worth millions of dollars from dealerships across the United States. The charges include conspiracy to transport, possess, and sell stolen vehicles in interstate commerce, as well as interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle. The indictment alleges that from 2021 to 2023, the defendants engaged in a sophisticated operation to steal luxury vehicles and sell them below market value in Charlotte.
Charges and Defendants
The indictment charges Dewanne Lamar White, Garyka Vaughn Bost, Kevin Ja’Coryen James Fields, Hosea Fernandez Hampton Jr., and Reginald Eugene Hill with various offenses related to the theft and trafficking of stolen vehicles. White, Fields, and Hampton are also charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle. These individuals are believed to have played different roles within the conspiracy, with Bost, Fields, and Hill often serving as drivers and White and Hampton overseeing the operation.
Scope of Auto Theft Operation
The auto theft operation spanned multiple states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Arizona. The defendants allegedly targeted dealerships in these states, stealing luxury vehicles from brands such as Bentley, BMW, Cadillac, Land Rover, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, as well as other high-end models from manufacturers like Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford. The operation involved transporting the stolen vehicles back to Charlotte, where they were sold at prices significantly lower than their market value.
Methods of Theft
According to the indictment, the defendants employed various methods to carry out the thefts. In some instances, they would visit dealerships posing as interested customers and then swap the vehicles’ key fobs with similar ones during test drives or inspections. They would later use the stolen key fobs to steal the vehicles. In other cases, the defendants allegedly used the “smash and grab” technique, breaking into dealerships to locate keys for high-end models or accessing lockboxes containing keys to luxury vehicles. After acquiring the keys, they would drive the stolen vehicles off the lots.
Roles of Defendants in the Conspiracy
Each defendant within the auto theft ring played a specific role in the operation. Bost, Fields, and Hill primarily served as drivers, transporting stolen vehicles and aiding in the execution of thefts. White and Hampton, on the other hand, were allegedly responsible for overseeing the overall operation and coordinating the activities of the other defendants. The indictment also suggests that the defendants and their co-conspirators worked together during multiple vehicle thefts, which resulted in substantial financial losses for the targeted dealerships.
Avoiding Law Enforcement Detection
To evade detection by law enforcement agencies, the defendants employed various tactics. They would remove GPS navigation and tracking systems from the stolen vehicles, attach fictitious dealer tags or stolen license plates, and replace the vehicles’ authentic Vehicle Identification Numbers. These measures were intended to make it more difficult for authorities to trace the stolen vehicles or identify them as stolen. However, their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, as law enforcement agencies were able to uncover the operation and apprehend the defendants.
Statement from U.S. Attorney King
U.S. Attorney Dena J. King expressed the government’s commitment to combating theft schemes that result in significant financial losses for businesses and consumers. She applauded the efforts of federal and local law enforcement partners in investigating the case and bringing forth the charges. The unsealing of the indictment represents a significant step in holding the defendants accountable for their actions and ensuring that justice is served.
Statements from Law Enforcement Partners
Law enforcement partners, including Ronnie Martinez from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Robert M. DeWitt from the FBI, and Chief Johnny Jennings from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), also commented on the investigation and charges. They emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts in dismantling criminal operations, protecting businesses, and safeguarding the economy. These partners highlighted their commitment to working together to ensure that justice is served and criminal enterprises are effectively disrupted.
Penalties for Charges
The charges outlined in the indictment carry significant penalties if the defendants are convicted. The offense of conspiracy to transport, possess, and sell stolen vehicles in interstate commerce carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charges of interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle and possession of a stolen vehicle each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. It should be noted that these charges are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Acknowledgments and Prosecution
U.S. Attorney King expressed her gratitude towards HSI, the FBI, CMPD, and other state and local law enforcement partners for their contributions to the investigation. The York County South Carolina Sheriff’s Office was also recognized for its assistance in the case. The prosecution of the defendants will be handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Bozin and Daniel Ryan from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.
In conclusion, the unsealing of the indictment against the members of the Charlotte-based auto theft ring marks a significant development in the case. The charges filed demonstrate the severity of the alleged offenses and further highlight the government’s commitment to combating auto theft and protecting businesses. The collaborative efforts of law enforcement partners have been crucial in uncovering the operation and bringing the defendants to justice. The upcoming prosecution will provide an opportunity for the evidence against the defendants to be presented in a court of law, ultimately determining their guilt or innocence.