NEW YORK (Reuters) - Authorities on Wednesday broke up an international car theft ring that used the streets of New York "as one giant showroom" to stalk more than $1 million in luxury cars and steal them for sale in Africa, the New York state attorney general said.
Fourteen people were arrested in raids early on Wednesday on an indictment that resulted from a yearlong investigation that used wiretaps. The stolen cars were loaded into containers and shipped for sale in Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria.
Authorities said the ring looked for cars that matched orders placed by a theft broker, including model, year, color and accessory package.
To "fill the order," the "steal team" targeted a matching car on the street, used keys obtained from a locksmith to get inside and then employed a portable computer to synchronize the key to the car's unique code, enabling a theft without damage, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a press release.
"This criminal enterprise used the streets of New York City as one giant showroom for stealing cars," Schneiderman said. The ring "left innocent New Yorkers in the lurch."
The ring specialized in stealing Lexus, Acura and other high-end automobiles. The stolen cars were sold for as much as $40,000 apiece, the press release said.
Among those arrested were an international broker, a steal crew boss, locksmith, key men and vehicle thieves.
Most of those arrested were from New York, although some were from New Jersey, Maryland and Florida. They were indicted on charges ranging from forgery to grand larceny.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Greg McCune and Peter Cooney)