Automobile theft is a serious charge that can carry substantial criminal penalties and long potential periods of incarceration. Now 11 individuals in New Jersey are facing auto theft charges in what law enforcement authorities are describing as a large scale auto theft ring. Police say that the group of conspirators targeted high end luxury cars and then sold them either resold them or chopped them down for parts.

Last August law enforcement officials noticed a spike in the number of stolen luxury vehicles in New Jersey. Police began a comprehensive investigation acting under the belief that the lefts may have been related as part of a conspiracy. Eventually the investigation included the police departments from a variety of New Jersey municipalities as well various prosecutors’ offices and the New Jersey State Police.

Authorities claim that the theft ring would seek out cars left unguarded in the early morning hours. They say that in many cases the owners of the stolen cars reported having had left their keys inside the cars. The cars that they believe where stolen by the theft ring included, two BMWs, a Ferrari, a Mercedes, and a Porsche. They believe that as many as ten other stolen vehicles may have been involved as well. The total value of the stolen cars amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Conspiracy charges are not uncommon in large scale criminal investigations such as this one. As the scope of the investigation widens, police seek to connect more and more people to the investigation as part of the conspiracy. This can lead to people who are only tangentially involved, if they are involved at all, coming under scrutiny.

Source: Bloomberg Business Week, “NJ police: Theft ring stole $300K in luxury cars,” SAMANTHA HENRY, April 18, 2012