ALPHARETTA, Ga. - Federal investigators busted a high-end car theft ring that spanned three states.
Authorities said at least six people, including a lawyer from Atlanta, are accused of stealing more than $1 million worth of luxury cars, including eight Bentleys, from an Alpharetta dealership.
“This seemed like a very well-organized operation. These guys obviously had done their homework,” Alpharetta police Officer Howard Miller said.
Police said the six thieves, who have been on the run for nearly three years, are now under federal indictment. Investigators said they targeted high-end car dealerships across the southeast.
"You may recall, in 2015, we had several high-end vehicles stolen from our Bentley dealership in Alpharetta," Miller said. "Eight Bentleys at $200,000 each. We are looking at over a million and a half."
According to the indictment, a grand jury charged the individuals with conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and altering a vehicle identification number, or VIN.
Investigators said the group worked together to steal Bentleys, Audis, Corvettes and Mercedes-Benzes from dealerships in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
From there, court records show, the defendants would steal the VINs off similar cars and use them to create a new VIN for the stolen car before reselling the car to unassuming consumers.
"Finding VIN numbers through online searches and printing them out and then applying them on top of the existing stolen (one), so that way they wouldn't come back as a stolen vehicle," Miller said.
On Friday, Channel 2's Michael Seiden stopped by Bentley Atlanta on Westside Parkway in Alpharetta. The general manager appeared stunned and relieved when Seiden told him about the latest developments.
Channel 2 Action News learned one of the defendants, Janell Payne, is an Atlanta attorney. When we checked with the state bar, we found out that the 39-year-old does not have a license to practice law in Georgia.
Atlanta police eventually recovered three of the stolen Bentleys in a parking lot outside the airport in Atlanta.
The whereabouts of the other vehicles are unknown.
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