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Friday, February 2, 2001

Police snag suspected
new-car thief

Brand new cars were
being sold for as little as $800

By Harold Morse

Police knew there was something wrong when they bought a 2000 Ford Explorer, a 2000 Ford Sport Trac, a 2000 Oldsmobile Alero and a 2000 Honda Civic for cheap prices ranging from $800 to $1,200 each.

A 19-year-old Leeward Oahu man was arrested Monday on three counts of first-degree theft and one count of second-degree theft after undercover police officers bought the four new cars -- ranging in value from $18,000 to $29,000 -- from him, police said.

His only known occupation was picking up vehicles at docks and delivering them to dealers, their holding lots or rental firms, according to police.

The first two purchases were last August. One occurred in September and the most recent one Monday night, Detective Jeffrey Richards told reporters at the Kalihi Station yesterday.

Richards said patrol officers heard talk that stolen cars were available cheap and the investigation began.

Two dealerships and one rental agency were victimized in cases involving police purchases from the young man, he said.

"All we know is that it was a Ford dealership and, of course, a Honda was involved. I think the Alero was taken from a rental company," Richards said.

The method was to pick up a vehicle, deliver it and then take it from where it was delivered later, he added.

"It was taken from the docks to either the dealership itself or to the lots," Richards said.

Then the suspect, who had access to the keys, would drive off in a vehicle and sell it, he added.

If there are other purchasers of such stolen cars, such buyers could be charged with detaining stolen property, Richards said. First-degree detaining of stolen property is a felony, he added.

Although the investigation is ongoing, so far only the 19-year-old is suspected in the stolen-car deals, Richards said. The man also was arrested on a contempt citation on an outstanding warrant for a minor traffic offense.

"He's not been in that much contact with the police department," the detective said.

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