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Theft of more than 400 vehicles in Michigan leads to the arrest of 6 men

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Six men working as part of a criminal organization in Michigan have been arrested in connection with the theft of more than 400 vehicles worth about $8 million, authorities said Thursday.

The men, between the ages of 18 and 25, were arrested Wednesday by a police task force and charged with conducting a criminal enterprise, using a computer to commit a crime and receiving and concealing stolen vehicles, the Michigan Attorney General’s office said in a news release. Police recovered seven stolen vehicles, hundreds of auto parts, electronic key fobs, burglary tools, thousands of dollars in cash and nine firearms, according to the release.

Two other suspects were being sought.

The criminal ring has operated in more than 40 communities from southeastern Michigan to the western part of the state, authorities said. The vehicles were sold at below-market value, and some have been linked to various crimes, including homicides, attempted homicides armed robberies and carjackings, the AG's office said.

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The thefts remain under investigation.

“The activities of criminal organizations like these go far beyond theft,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “They cause millions in financial losses to our retail partners, sow fear, and endanger lives. Vehicles stolen as part of this criminal enterprise go on to become tools in violence, posing additional threats to public safety."

Several men believed to be members of an Ohio auto theft ring were arrested in 2022 and connected to thefts in the Detroit area.

Authorities have said thieves used cloned key fobs to steal Dodge muscle cars and other high-powered vehicles directly from dealerships and even automakers in Michigan, then sold them for tens of thousands of dollars less than their value.

A criminal complaint in the Ohio cases said investigators discovered that new Chargers, Challengers, Durangos and Ram pickups worth $50,000 to $100,000 were turning up in that state, in Indianapolis and at East Coast shipping ports after being sold on the street for $3,500 to $15,000.

It was not immediately clear Thursday if Wednesday's arrests in Michigan are connected to the theft ring in Ohio.

“This has become an epidemic of organized criminals preying on businesses in our communities and putting law enforcement and the general public in harm’s way, not just during the theft itself, but on the streets after they have stolen the vehicles," Rod Albert, co-executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, said Thursday.