Atlanta police have discovered there’s a new way to steal a vehicle, and Ronald Thomas is the perp who got away with it for several years. Now facing 16 counts of theft by receiving stolen property, two counts of operating a chop shop, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Thomas may need to use his cleverness to weasel his way out of this one.
Thomas is accused of using a device that would plug into a vehicle’s on-board diagnostic port and start it without a key. Then he’d drive on to an abandoned warehouse and dismantle it for their motors and transmissions, tires and rims, and hi-fi equipment. Large SUVs from General Motors, like the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon, were his vehicles of choice.
In a clever move, police believe Thomas anonymously called the police department to report an abandoned car in a lot. The police would remove the carcass, giving Ronald more space to continue his ruse. However, he moved around often in the area to avoid leaving a trace.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Detective Stephen O’Hare of the Atlanda Police Department’s auto theft task force says this device used by Thomas, which is slightly larger than a cell phone, is a new phenomenon for the department.
Thomas, who has 37 previous arrests on his record, had been under surveillance for a week due to a tip from an informant. When police raided two abandoned properties where Thomas had squatted, they found the remains of 16 SUVs including five that had been “acquired” in two days. Police expect the number of vehicles stolen over the past few years to be about 150, with Thomas racking in more than $500,000 selling the parts.