Police bust 'organized auto theft ring' - WNEM TV 5

Police bust 'organized auto theft ring'

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(L to R) Benion, Gist and Fergison (L to R) Benion, Gist and Fergison

The Shiawassee County Sheriff's office says deputies arrested three suspects for their alleged involvement in what is being called an organized auto theft group.

This incident was initiated when alert staff members at Young Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Chevrolet on East M-21 in Caledonia Township recognized a subject who was at the dealership as being the same person contained on a warning email which was distributed to dealerships in the Mid-Michigan area. 

The email included a photograph of the suspect which was captured on security video during the commission of a similar offense at Andrew Chevrolet in Mason in April of 2012. Once the suspect was recognized, the Sheriff's office was contacted for assistance.

The initial investigation indicates that these suspects had first selected a vehicle of interest to them at Signature Ford in Perry. While there, they were able to successfully exchange the keys for the vehicle they were looking at with "dummy" keys.  They then traveled to the Young dealership where they were attempting to have an additional key made for the vehicle targeted in Perry. 

In past similar incidents at other dealerships, this same process was completed with a secondary contact with the targeted vehicle in which the original key was replaced in hopes that any suspicion of the vehicle being stolen is mitigated. 

In those incidents, the targeted vehicle was then stolen with the duplicated key at some point after the original contact. 

The suspects arrested in this incident on Dec. 2 include 30-year-old Laronte Vern Benion, 30-year-old Tyron Omar Fergerson and 33-year-old Sterling Lauren Gist, all of Detroit. 

All three suspects have been charged by the Shiawassee County prosecutor with one count of attempted unlawful driving away of an automobile (2 ½ year felony) and one count of conspiracy to commit the unlawful driving away of an automobile (5 year felony). 

Deputies said Fergerson and Gist have also been charged as habitual offenders. All three remain lodged at the Shiawassee County jail with Benion and Fergerson under a $12,000 bond and Gist a $15,000 bond.

The Sheriff's department said it is currently cooperating with an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Michigan State Police Auto Theft Team in hopes of linking these suspects to other thefts from dealerships in the state. At this point, they are linked to incidents at Andrew Chevrolet in Mason and Shaheen Chevrolet in Lansing. 

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