Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
(Azi Paybarah, WNYC) As if Toyota needs more bad publicity.
A ring of car thieves who stole vehicles from the tri-state area and shipped them to Senegal was able to get into the automobiles using keys obtained from Toyota car dealers, authorities said.
Seventeen people in the ring -- including two employees of car dealerships -- which stole about 500 cars were arrested early this morning. That's according to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is running for Governor.
Here’s how it worked, he said: The thieves would get an “order” for a particular kind of car “down to the accessory package.”
They would find a car that fit the description, “get the VIN number for the vehicle, they would give it to the Toyota dealership employee; that employee would facilitate the making of a key, and that would lead to the stealing of a car.”
The thieves, Cuomo said, specialized in Toyota (RAV4s, Highlanders, Sequoias, and 4Runners) plus Mercedes, BMW, Infiniti, Range Rover, and Audis.
Cuomo made the announcement on Pier 54 in Manhattan, with some of the recovered cars and a shipping container as his backdrop.
“It was sophisticated in that they employed as part of the ring Toyota dealership employees who could actually facilitate the making of the key for the vehicle,” said Cuomo.
The dealers were in Greenwich Connecticut and New Jersey.
UPDATE: A spokesman at Glenn Toyota in Fairlawn, NJ had no comment about the arrested employee there, Reynaldo Colon. The owner of the other dealership, Toyota of Greenwich, in Connecticut, said the employee arrested at his firm, Danny Duran, was the company's number "number two mechanic" and "very mechanical." The owner also said he has been subpoenaed as part of the investigation.
Once the cars were stolen, they were “stacked” in shipping containers and hidden behind items like “furniture.”
I asked if the car thieves ability to ship stolen vehicles from an American port to Senegal raised any concerns about port security (something that’s been in my head since watching season 2 of The Wire).
“Not that we’ve determined,” Cuomo replied.