Friday, September 06, 2002

Erlanger breaks up national car theft ring

Nearly $200,000 in stolen autos recovered in Internet scam

By Jim Hannah,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Erlanger police are being credited with breaking up a nationwide auto theft scheme operating over the Internet, putting the alleged mastermind behind bars in Covington and helping recover nearly $200,000 in stolen automobiles.

        Detectives arrested Wayne Worden, 24, of Asheville, N.C., after they say he tried to sell a 2001 Toyota Corolla on an online auction site to a Northern Kentucky resident. An Erlanger man had the winning bid of $10,400, which is about $5,000 below the estimated retail value of the car.

        The buyer, who couldn't be reached for comment, asked police to check out the car when Mr. Worden delivered it to Northern Kentucky on Aug. 19. The Erlanger man told police he was suspicious because he had previously paid Mr. Worden for auto parts he never received.

        Mr. Worden arrived in Northern Kentucky in a Ford F-250 pickup with the Corolla in tow. He met the prospective buyer at a grocery on Dixie Highway, where police were waiting. They arrested Mr. Worden on an outstanding warrant in Pennsylvania for computer fraud.

        When detectives examined both the truck and car, they discovered the vehicles had forged vehicle identification numbers. The true VIN numbers, hidden in numerous places on modern vehicles, identified the vehicles as stolen.

        With the cooperation of eBay officials, detectives recovered 11 more stolen vehicles, several of which were sold or for auction on eBay. The cars were reported stolen from North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

        Working with law enforcement officials is a daily routine for eBay, either “for fraud or to finds ways to curb Internet theft,” said Kevin Pursglove, a spokesman for the San Jose, Calif., based company.

        He said less than 0.01 percent of listings on eBay are fraudulent.

        “With the advent of the Internet, you can be ripped off by someone living on the other side of the world,” said Erlanger Police Detective Steve Castor. “Just as you can run a business out of your living room, you can run a major crime syndicate out of your living room.”

        Detective Castor said he isn't aware of any more victims in Kentucky, but that additional charges against Mr. Worden were pending in other states. While Erlanger police didn't anticipate making any more arrests, he said, law enforcement officials in other states had interviewed other suspects.

        Mr. Worden was being held Thursday afternoon in the Kenton County Detention Center in lieu of $10,000 cash bond. He is charged with two felony counts of receiving stolen property over $300 involving an auto.


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