Local task force recovers $1 million in auto theft sting - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Local task force recovers $1 million in auto theft sting

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OCEANSIDE (CNS) - An almost year-long undercover operation by more than a dozen San Diego-area law enforcement agencies resulted in 73 stolen vehicles being returned to victims and concluded with 38 arrests this week, authorities announced Thursday.

The recovered vehicles -- worth more than $1.1-million dollars -- and the arrests of more than three dozen suspects, were part of what a San Diego- area task force called "Operation Kill Switch," which utilized undercover officers and deputies to buy stolen vehicles from thieves, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said.

"The harm caused to people just trying to take their children to school or their elderly parent to an appointment is unacceptable," Stephan said at a morning news conference.

The district attorney gave one example of a woman who drove a 1992 Honda -- a wedding gift from her husband -- to a low-wage job at a discount store. The woman was proud of the car despite it's age and took good care of it, but was devastated when it was stolen while she was at work, Stephan said.

Officials with the Regional Auto Theft Task Force launched "Operation Kill Switch" in February, said RATT Commander Donald Goodbrand, a captain with the California Highway Patrol. The operation ended early Wednesday morning with a sweep through the North County that nabbed 38 of the 60 people indicted in the case.

Charges secured in the indictments include vehicle theft, residential burglary, possession of stolen property and illegal weapon possession, Stephan said. More arrests were expected in the coming days.

Two of the suspects were expected to be arraigned Thursday while the majority of the others were expected to be arraigned Friday or Monday.

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