CLEVELAND (WJW)– Employees at some of Greater Cleveland’s busiest car dealerships have been on edge in recent days after thieves committed a series of brazen crimes. But on Wednesday, police got a big break in the case.
The trouble started last Friday at Spitzer Kia on Brookpark Road in Cleveland when three teenagers walked into the showroom and pretended they wanted to buy a new car. Instead, one of them grabbed a set of keys from a desk. Once they were outside, they used the keys to start a 2022 SUV and drove away.
Incredibly, the same group of teens came back to the dealership on Tuesday afternoon after parking the stolen vehicle across the street. Once inside, one of them grabbed a key from a table right in front of a customer and ran.
A salesman chased after the suspects and they almost ran him over as they sped away in the stolen SUV.
“It’s not right and nobody should ever be put in a situation where that would ever happen to them,” said Freddy Mansour, Spitzer Kia general manager.
The teens then showed up at Gillingham Ford on Brookpark in Parma and told a salesman they were looking at cars for their mother. One of them grabbed a key from a desk and they left the dealership in the SUV that had been stolen from Spitzer.
“In the past, what they’ve done is they’ve taken the key, they come back at a later date, and then they try and find the car via the fob. You know, all you have to do is touch the fob or panic button,” said Scott Lockhart, Gillingham Ford sales manager.
But when the dealership realized the keys had been stolen, they were able to re-program the vehicle with new keys before the thieves had a chance to return and steal it.
“The other day was just an additional reminder that you can’t, even for a moment, let your guard down,” Lockhart said.
The biggest concern of the dealerships has been that an innocent person could be hurt or even killed, as the thieves try to get away. That’s why Spitzer Kia decided to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspects, and on Wednesday, it paid off.
“The vehicle has been found. We had an anonymous caller call us and give us information on the whereabouts of the vehicle, who the suspects were, where they live, so on and so forth, I want to give a big shout out to the Cleveland Police Department, they did a wonderful job,” Mansour said.
Investigators said some of the suspects in the theft ring are as young as 13 years old.