Thieves Steal Luxury Cars by Using GPS Tracking Devices

Alan Watkins, 42, and associates pled guilty in court recently to numerous counts of conspiracy to handle stolen goods. The goods, in this case, consist of more than 300 luxury vehicles worth up to £3.5m (approximately USD $5.5m) to sell them in Cyprus. With him in court, appeared Lee Fullick, 51, who helped clone the stolen cars keys, and Sukvinder Matto, 35, a known professional car thief.

Watkins led a sophisticated vehicle “ringing” plot. His gang chose luxury vehicle models parked in Essex that were similar to those exported to Cyprus. Specifically targeted were Audis, BMWs, and Range Rovers.

In order to steal the cars, the gang waited until one of the preferred models was parked, then attached a signal blocker, preventing the remote controlled locking systems from working then enter the unlocked car. Once inside the vehicle, the gang hacked into its computer system to access information about its key and installed a covert GPS tracking device. Watkins would later create a copy of the key, so that thieves could steal the car later, without causing any damage. The GPS tracking devices allowed the gang to determine the easiest time and place to steal the car.

When Watkins’ home was searched, police found a stun gun, pepper spray, CS gas canister, 9mm ammunition, and false driving licenses, pictures of the suspect with bundles of cash. Additional evidence, some from his laptop, linked Watkins personally to more than 150 separate stolen vehicles.

David Durose, the prosecuting attorney described the gang’s ringing operation as being “systematic and highly organized. . . . Handwritten notes of lists of names with figures alongside, apparently sums owed to different people, were found at his home,” Mr. Durose said. “Watkins’ role in the enterprise manifests itself in the fact that it was his responsibility to pay others who had done jobs for him as part of his criminal enterprise.”