North County stolen car ring
Dozens of men and women are behind bars Friday night accused of stealing cars and weapons in a
an eight month undercover operation to bust auto theft rings in north county. As of Friday night several suspects have already been arraigned in court and six suspects remain at large.
An eight month undercover operation into several auto theft rings in north county conducted by the Regional Auto Theft Task Force that resulted in the arrests of 34 people.
Seized were 38 stolen cars, a dozen guns, methamphetamine and heroin.
Operation gangbusters began back in March after a string of complaints about cars being stolen, mostly near Escondido. Deputy D.A. Rick Madruga says agents posed as car buyers to get to know the players who were allegedly offering the stolen cars for sale, at prices far under their value. Then would inquire about other transactions sometimes involving weapons and drugs.
More than a dozen of those indicted by the grand jury were women and the D.A.'s office says many of them played key roles.
Included for the first time with the Task Force was U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ice's role approaching the rings to buy firearms to sell to drug cartels south of the border.
Over the last few years “ratt operations” like this one have helped reduce the number of cars stolen across the county. In 2008 nearly 29-hundred cars were taken.
The defendants face anywhere from probation to 18 years behind bars if found guilty. The operation appears to have made a big dent in the auto theft business.