Cops: Ring stole millions of dollars worth of cars, train cargo - FOX 32 News Chicago

Cops: Ring stole millions of dollars worth of cars, train cargo

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CROWN POINT, Ind. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

An eight-month investigation in northwest Indiana and Chicago led to the recovery of more than $3 million in stolen vehicles, stolen train cargo, pharmaceuticals and firearms, and the arrests of seven people, the Post-Tribune is reporting.

With the assistance of CSX Railroad and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the investigation found 20 vehicles whose VINs had been changed and suspects were targeting train cargo cars loaded with TVs, computers and other valuable electronics destined for retail stores, Lake County (Ind.) SHeriff John Buncich said Monday.

NICB assisted by providing funding to buy the stolen items.

Buncich said suspects knew which train cars to target and were most active in railyards in the Miller area of Gary, as well as Bedford Park and Chicago.

"Talking to these agents, it's amazing how fast they can get into a freight car and steal the merchandise, mainly at night, but sometimes even in the daytime," Buncich said.

CSX technical special agent James Haskell said thieves even prey upon cargo when trains are stopped for signal delays, derailments or construction.

"The problem is it's a matter of volume. We have so many trains running, so it becomes a matter of balancing the efficiency and the security for our customers," he said.

Buncich said an estimated $3.2 million worth of vehicles and $10 million worth of train cargo are stolen in the Northwest Indiana and Chicago area each year.

NICB senior Vice President Jim Schweitzer said cloning VINs means the cars can be sold to unsuspecting buyers.

"This all affects ultimately the pocketbook of every consumer in the United States," Schweitzer said. "When you go to buy insurance—your auto, homeowners, even commercial—the impact of theft ... is felt by individuals; rates are higher."

Police searched two Gary residences — 1041 Cleveland St. and 700 W. 45th Ave. — and found two stolen cars, motorcycles, guns and ammunition, high-end handbags, and a VIN cloning operation.

Eight Northwest Indiana residents are facing charges ranging from auto theft and firearm theft to possession of retagged vehicles and fleeing law enforcement in the theft ring.

Those charged and in custody include Cleveland Neal, 35, of Gary; Onrae Jordan, 29, of Gary; Carl Rogers, 34, of Gary; James Magee, 25, of Gary; Triston Smith, 34, of Hammond; Larry Dee Williams, 35, of Gary; and Derrick Frazier, 45, of Merrillville.

Crown Point resident Amanda Grove, 32, remains at large, but police are searching for her on an active warrant for auto theft, possession of paraphernalia, and resisting law enforcement.

Buncich said six investigations are active, with an additional 11 suspects possibly facing charges in the future.

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