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18 cars stolen at two luxury dealers

October 16, 2009 4:22:11 AM PDT
A group of thieves pulled off a very unusual heist last weekend.They hit three Chicago-area car dealerships, including McGrath Lexus in Chicago, and got away with almost two dozen luxury cars.

On Wednesday night, ABC7 aired security video provided by Chicago police from McGrath that allegedly showed the robbers removing a safe with the keys to loaner cars. Police tell ABC7 now that this video mistakenly included a McGrath employee who had no involvement in the crime.

The dealerships run from Merrillville, Indiana to Lake Bluff, Illinois.

All told, the thieves drove off with more than a half-a-million dollars worth of luxury vehicles. As daring and devious as these heists were, police tell us the culprits did not have a good plan about what to do with the stolen vehicles.

Late Saturday night, a crew broke into McGrath Lexus on Division. Security cameras captured them removing a safe that contained keys to a dozen loaner vehicles.

Twenty-four-hours later, they returned with a dozen people.

They used one Lexus to smash through a parking lot gate, and then drove off in a conga line of cars -- 11 vehicles in all. The total value was $350,000.

"It seemed like a highly organized event. The fact they knew exactly where to go, what to take and were out instead of snooping around for more things would suggest to me it was highly organized and well planned," said Mike McGrath Jr., of McGrath Lexus.

On Friday night in Lake Bluff, Imperial Motors was hit the same way. The take included even pricier cars: six Jaguars and a Land Rover.

Two of the Jags were convertibles, each with a sticker value of $107,000 dollars.

Lake Bluff Police may have missed the car thieves by minutes.

"There was still a car running in the building. Perhaps they scared them off," said Jordan Aron, of Imperial Motors.

The high-end nature of the heists may have been the crew's undoing. One of the new 2010 Lexus SUV's that was swiped included a tracking device.

"Lexus worked in conjunction with local police to pinpoint the location using GPS navigation," McGrath said.

Police caught up to Gregory Lee, 32, and two others. Investigators say the men were trying to unload the high-end vehicles for just $500 apiece on South Side streets.

"It's pointing more toward idiocy. They steal all these luxury cars and don't have a plan on how to dispose of them properly," said Chicago Police Commander Joe Salemme.

Police are still looking for other members of this robbery ring. Only a handful of the stolen cars have been recovered so far.

The good news is the dealers all have insurance on their inventories.

No dealer can recall hearing about a robbery ring similar in scale.


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