Crime ring targets car dealerships

Kellie Cowan reports

- It's a familiar scene at car dealerships across central Florida right now: surveillance video showing thieves smashing through glass doors, going straight for keys to cars in the lot and then driving off with them.

The most recent break in happened last Thursday at Kelley Used Cars in Auburndale. The burglars took off with five cars. Investigators say this wasn't their first time.

"It's not an isolated incident. It's a pattern," said Auburndale deputy police chief Andy Ray.

Just two weeks ago deputies in Inverness captured six young men, three of them juveniles, caught red handed doing the same thing. They had also been captured on surveillance video from dealerships and other businesses across central Florida. The burglaries, however, didn't stop once they went to jail.

"In those cases a number of arrests have been made but there are still a number of people that are responsible for a number of these thefts that are happening around this central Florida area," said Ray.

Investigators believe the thieves in all the videos are part of a much larger crime ring, hitting dealerships from central Florida's West Coast to the East Coast.

A plea on Kelley Automotive's Facebook page helped recover all five of their stolen vehicles, but both authorities and business owners want help putting the rest of the crime ring behind bars.

"For the benefit of everybody out there that's doing things the right way and just trying to earn a living we need to find them and put them away behind bars so folks don't have to spend extra money trying to keep things secure," said Kelley Automotive general manager Jason Stokes.

Heartland Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of these men and the recovery of any stolen vehicles. Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to call 1-800-226 TIPS(8477).

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