(12/10/13) - Three Detroit men are in the Shiawassee County jail, now charged, for their alleged roles in what authorities said was an organized auto theft ring.
The Shiawassee County Sheriff's Office said they were arrested at an Owosso area dealership, Dec. 2, trying to get a key made for a vehicle they may have been trying to steal from a dealership in Perry.
Laronte Benion, Tyron Fergerson and Sterling Gist each face one count of attempted unlawful driving away of an automobile and one count of conspiracy to commit the unlawful driving away of an automobile. Both are felonies. Fergerson and Gist are charged as habitual offenders, according to the sheriff's office.
Sheriff George Braidwood said the thieves would act interested in a vehicle, swap in a dummy key at the dealership and then come back after hours with the real one and just drive off.
"It doesn't get any simpler than that," Braidwood said.
But eventually someone will slip up.
Why the men were where they were when arrested, Young Chevrolet Cadillac, doesn't make sense.
"They were trying to get a key made," Braidwood said. "They were in possession of a key to a brand new vehicle from the dealership in Perry."
Yet they were in the Owosso area trying to get another one cut, according to Braidwood.
What the men didn't know was there was a surveillance camera picture plastered out of their view - something staff had been studying for well over a year.
An observant employee picked up on it and called police.
"The guy, almost, was wearing the same thing in the picture," said Tony Young, President of Young Chevrolet Cadillac. "I peeked my head into parts and thought, 'Yep, it's the same guy.'"
The picture had been distributed to dealerships by one that had been hit with the dummy key crime.
"Kudos to the dealerships for getting involved and helping us with our work," said Braidwood.
Young's staff had good reason to be alert.
In April of 2012, five vehicles were stolen the same way - a brand new, $85,000 Cadillac Escalade included.
See that ABC12 report HERE.
Authorities are working to connect the trio to that theft.
"I think they prey on little, country dealers, thinking we're asleep at the wheel," Young said. "But it's the country dealers that had the photos of him. It's the country dealers that caught them."
The Sheriff's Office is working with the Michigan State Police Auto Theft Team to try and link the trio to other thefts in state and say, right now, they can be linked to incidents in Ingham County in and near Lansing.
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