New York City is one of the most heavily policed areas anywhere in the world. But if you thought the days of the old-fashioned carjacking were over, think again. It turns out the car thieves just got a bit smarter.
New York State General Letitia James and the NYPD announced Tuesday they’d dismantled a high-tech car theft ring and busted ten suspects in Bronx on a 303-count indictment.
These robberies were no mere window-smash and hotwiring jobs. The ring is accused of using bootleg computer code to spoof car owners’ electronic keys, leading to hundreds of car thefts throughout the borough from April through October 2020.
Using these phony codes, mostly found on the internet, these thieves could remotely reprogram vehicles to unlock and drive away without setting off the car’s alarm system or alerting any passers-by.
With these codes, thieves can do everything from starting the car without the right key to electronically rolling back the digital odometer display via the car’s ECU system. All in the name of making the stolen vehicle more lucrative on the black market.
One member of the conspiracy owned and ran Carmela’s Multiservice and Auto Tag in Philadelphia, where they filed fake documents with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and got clean registrations and titles for the stolen cars, authorities explained. Proving this crime ring is a widespread conspiracy that stretches to states beyond just New York.
Authorities say the thieves were praying on vulnerable members of the community forced indoors by the current health crisis. Thus far, authorities have managed to recover 115 stolen vehicles directly tied to the Bronx-based crime syndicate. Others remain missing or declared written off by insurance companies.
The extent of these crimes and the ease with which they were executed spells consequences not just for New York City but also for cities worldwide. With criminals across the globe wising up to anti-theft countermeasures from the auto industry, it’s upon all of us to be cautious and avoid situations where our beloved rides could be stolen from us.