Imagine finding out your car has been stolen and sold for scrap metal. That’s the case for 12 car owners in New York City.
According to the New York Daily News, 21-year old Franklin Payne has been arrested for allegedly stealing Hondas, Nissans, Volkswagens, Kias and Fords as part of his DIY towing scheme.
Mr Payne is accused of turning his Chevrolet Silverado into a tow truck and stealing vehicles from East New York – where he lived – and selling them for scrap metal.
Mr Payne was apprehended by the NYPD earlier this week after allegedly completing his crime spree in May 2023.
New York Daily News reports nine vehicles were stolen from Brooklyn, including his neighbourhood of East New York, and three from Queens.
According to the news outlet, the NYPD says vehicles that are more than eight years old don’t require an ownership title when being sold for spare parts.
The alleged thief was able to turn the cars into some extra cash by declaring on a form with the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) that the vehicles belonged to him. This misstep, however, lead to his arrest.
As a result of the increase in stolen vehicles, NYPD auto crime detectives frequently run VIN numbers of stolen cars through a national database to see if they’ve been scrapped.
New York Daily News reports that NYPD detectives stumbled upon a series of stolen vehicles that were all crushed at the same Nassau County junkyard on Long Island.
After subsequent investigations, detectives were able to link Mr Payne and his DIY Chevrolet Silverado tow truck.
Mr Payne was ultimately caught, as a result of his signature on DMV documents verifying he was the rightful owner of the vehicles he stole and then delivered to the scrap yard.
“He signed a document establishing that he was the owner of the [cars] he delivered,” said NYPD Sergeant Michael Alfano, the New York Daily News reports.
“That’s how we got his name.
“The fact that all of the cars he was stealing were from one precinct was a real red flag for us.”
According to New York Daily News, Mr Payne was charged with 12 counts of car theft, criminal possession of stolen property and the unauthorised use of a motor vehicle.
New York Daily News reports in the Big Apple, grand theft auto cases have increased by 18 per cent so far this year. The NYPD has investigated 7624 car thefts this year, up from 6455 year over year.
“It’s a very lucrative business,” Sgt. Alfano told the New York Daily News.
“You can make a lot of money from the older and heavier cars than the newer cars. That’s why we check these avenues of investigation when a car goes missing.”
A TikTok trend is to blame for an increase in stolen Hyundai or Kia vehicles across the U.S., with many thieves posting their crimes online.
New York Daily News reports that criminals are also looking online to find computer codes to create electronic keys to cars, which they later steal without setting off any alarms.