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Cape Coral man among 23 arrested in luxury car theft/fraud case; investigation ran five years

KLuxury cars such as Porsches, Land Rovers, and Maseratis were targets of a crime ring.

A Cape Coral man is among 23 people who have been arrested in a five-year Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into a luxury car theft/fraud ring.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement FDLE, along with Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution (OSP), Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) announced the results of Operation Gone in 60 Days Monday at a press conference held at FDLE’s Tampa Regional Operations Center.

FDLE’s investigation began in July 2018 when agents began looking into allegations of Florida Commercial Driver Licenses being illegally distributed to persons who had not completed the required training courses.

Investigators discovered a criminal organization that was issuing fraudulent Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) to high-end vehicles that were obtained through fraud or theft, selling the vehicles below market value, fraudulently assigning tags, defrauding customers through purporting to issue automobile insurance, and other crimes.

The crime ring’s illegal activities centered around profiting from the theft and sale of luxury vehicles from brands like Porsche, Land Rover and Maserati. Suspects would illegally acquire the vehicles by using couriers, fake names and fraudulent payments to “purchase” the vehicles from dealerships who wouldn’t discover the fraud until after the vehicles were gone from the lot.

Another vehicle-acquisition scheme saw the suspects keeping rental vehicles and filing false police reports claiming the vehicles had been stolen.

Investigators found that the organization’s leader would then generate counterfeit VINs to attach to the vehicle to further cover up the thefts. Since the vehicles were obtained illegally and lacked legitimate paperwork that could be used to register them, another suspect, who worked in a Miami-based dealership, issued temporary tags from the dealership or transferred a tag from a legitimate vehicle to the fraudulent vehicle.

Suspects would also purport to sell auto insurance to customers purchasing the stolen vehicles, which would often result in customers receiving an initial policy that quickly lapsed as the suspects kept the actual payments provided.

“The members of this criminal organization orchestrated a multi-stage scheme to defraud potential car customers at every step of the way, selling stolen vehicles with fraudulent VINs, illegally sourced license plates, and dummy insurance policies," FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass said. "This complex criminal enterprise victimized citizens and businesses across the state, but the suspects’ days of profiting off the misery of hard-working Floridians is at an end.”

Among the nearly two dozen suspects from across the state facing charges in this case include:
Alberto J. Sandoval-Mejia, 37, of Cape Coral

  • Arrested on June 23, 2023, and booked into Lee County Jail
  • Charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle

All charges are felonies.
In addition to the 23 suspects already arrested and the two more with active arrest warrants, agents have filed two additional arrest affidavits with the court, for a total of 27 suspects.

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