Thirty-three indicted in undercover stolen car operation - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Thirty-three indicted in undercover stolen car operation

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Authorities announced Thursday the indictment of 33 people in San Diego following a six-month undercover auto theft operation which yielded 53 stolen vehicles taken from fitness clubs, day care centers, residential homes and shopping malls.

The vehicles stolen during "Operation G-Ride" were worth an estimated $600,000, said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

The defendants - all except one with criminal records - face auto theft, residential burglary and weapons charges, prosecutors said.

"They (the suspects) were breaking into private homes to get car keys, and then they were coming back later to steal cars," Dumanis said.

She said more than 40 of the stolen cars have been recovered.

Dumanis said the defendants also sold stolen firearms and drugs to undercover officers during the operation.

CHP Capt. Scott Parker, commander of the multi-agency Regional Auto Theft Task Force, said a beach theft ring was broken up as a result of "Operation G-Ride."

He said the auto theft rate in San Diego County has dropped more than 50 percent since 2007.

A few years ago, San Diego ranked number three nationally in the number of cars stolen, and now San Diego is ranked 15th, Dumanis said.

The county's top prosecutor said people should be alert when they park their car outside a business.

"If you go to one of these places, like a shopping mall (or) fitness center, go in and lock up your purse," Dumanis said. "Don't leave it in a locker that is unlocked and don't leave your purse in your vehicle so that it can be stolen."

Prosecutor Richard Madruga said one of the suspects targeted day care centers, waiting for parents to drop off children, then stealing their cars when they went inside.

In one instance, a parent dropping off a child looked outside and saw her car being stolen and gave chase, but was unable to catch up, Madruga said.

That stolen vehicle was later sold to undercover officers, the prosecutor said.

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