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Car Theft Bust Yields 42 Indictments

December 1, 2016

By Mario A. Cortez  cops

A 10-month crackdown on vehicle theft and other illicit activities in San Diego County has yielded 42 grand jury indictments according to the  San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

The Undercover operation was conducted by the Regional Auto Theft Team (RATT), in cooperation with several local law enforcement agencies and and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

In a press release statement, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said that “San Diego County ranks fifteenth in the nation for auto theft – a huge improvement from 2007 when we were third nationwide,” highlighting the effects of these operations. “Since RATT has been attacking this problem, auto theft is now down about 75 percent to about 10,000 a year.”

Operation Kwikboost, which began in January,  used undercover law enforcement officers who would purchase stolen vehicles and car parts  directly from the defendants. The officers investigating these thefts  would “buy” parts and vehicles at a storefront the Lemon Grove area. The operation resulted in the seizure of 117 vehicles, totaling a value of $1.3 million.

The bulk of the vehicles retrieved by this operation came from east county and the south bay areas. The most commonly stolen vehicles were late ‘90s and early 2000s Honda and Toyota sedans.

Authorities also confiscated 51 firearms, ranging from simple pistols to AR-15 rifles. Narcotics seized include five and a half pounds of methamphetamine, three kilograms of cocaine, and 15 pounds of marijuana.

Many of the arrests in this operation were made on November 30 during an early-morning sting operation by cooperating law enforcement agencies. Out of 42 indictments, 32 defendants are currently in police custody. There are currently 10 outstanding suspects still at-large.

“We are hoping that the public will give us some information as to where to find the [suspects at large],” said Summer Stephan, Chief Deputy for the San Diego County DIstrict Attorney.

The defendants in custody face various felony charges including vehicle theft, identity theft, illegal weapons possession, and possession and sales of illegal narcotics. Sentences for these suspects range from three to 25 years in prison.

Despite the announcement of these indictments and seizures, Operation Kwik Boost will continue to operate and investigate car theft in San Diego County.

“This is an operation that is ongoing. The group is always operating under the District Attorney’s Office and they are always investigating and interrogating suspects,” said  Jesse Navarro, ‎Community Relations Representative for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

“It is important for the public to be aware of danger and to be cautious of their vehicles and  to have insurance that covers theft,”  Navarro added. “But most importantly,  keep your vehicles safe and don’t draw the attention of criminals.”

Arraignments in this operation are scheduled to begin on Friday, December 2, at the Superior Court in Downtown San Diego.

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