SAN DIEGO–The District Attorney’s Office said 31 grand jury indictments as a result of a four-month undercover operation conducted by the Regional Auto Theft Task Force (RATT), in cooperation with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the San Diego Police Department’s Gang Unit. The defendants face various felony charges including vehicle theft, residential burglary, operating a chop shop, possession of stolen property and illegal weapons possession. Ten additional defendants will be sought through other means of prosecution.
“San Diego County ranks fifteenth in the nation for auto theft – a huge improvement from 2007 when we were third nationwide,” DA Dumanis said. “This proves why the continued hard work by RATT is so important.”
Operation Last Judgment was launched in December 2011 in part as a response to community concern over increased auto theft. During the course of investigating these auto theft crimes, some narcotics were also seized. Law enforcement officers from RATT purchased a vehicle that was part of a residential burglary and disrupted a distribution of firearms ring. Some identified car thieves were also involved in identity theft. That case was turned over to the U.S. Postal inspectors for further investigation.
During the crackdown, undercover officers purchased stolen cars, drugs and weapons at locations throughout San Diego County. Dozens of car thieves were caught thanks to extraordinary cooperation between RATT, ATF and San Diego police. The National
Insurance Crime Bureau and Safeco Insurance provided support to the task force throughout this operation.
Of the 31 indicted, 24 are in police custody. There were 44 total arrests made during this operation including more than a dozen during yesterday’s early-morning sweep in San Diego and Riverside counties. Suspects in this investigation face varied sentences depending on their criminal background including probation to 25 years in prison. Some of the defendants will be arraigned at 10 a.m. Friday in Department 11 at the Hall of Justice.
“The San Diego Police Department is proud to have been a part of this operation,” said San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne. “By working in cooperation with RATT, we continue to arrest criminals, recover stolen property and enhance the overall quality of life in the City of San Diego. The numerous reports that car thieves were targeting areas in and around the Mid-City communities were alarming to the SDPD and we felt it was important to support RATT’s efforts.”
Evidence seized during the operation includes 84 stolen cars valued at $540,000, 17 firearms and a miscellaneous amount of narcotics.
“Taking a pro-active approach in seeking out the professional auto thief and having aggressive prosecution has had a definite impact within our community” said Scott Parker, RATT Commander and CHP Captain. In 2007, there were 27,073 autos stolen in San Diego County. By 2011, that number dropped 53% to 12,638.
RATT’s partnership with other law enforcement agencies is a police force multiplier and produces dramatic results.
“Because of the combined efforts of ATF and CHP, these criminals have been removed from the community of San Diego and placed where they belong: into the criminal justice system to be processed and prosecuted for illegal activity,” said Steven J. Bogdalek ATF Special Agent in Charge Los Angeles Field Division. “This four month undercover operation purchased 17 firearms that range from being stolen, sawed off shotguns, and a firearm with an obliterated serial number, all which will no longer be a threat to the community.”