DENVER -- A seemingly random string of car thefts over the past two years has turned into a major bust for the Denver Police Department.
Working alongside the Metro Auto Theft Task Force, the agencies were able to piece together almost 100 crimes to uncover a large criminal enterprise.
On Friday, a Denver grand jury indicted 19 members of the crime ring, including the five alleged ringleaders: Pablo Bleacher, Noah Ferris, Jordan Goetsch, Jory Ingram and Michael Rodgers.
The group is accused of stealing $600,000 worth of vehicles, $40,000 worth of personal property and causing another $30,000 in property damage.
From at least November 2015 to July, the indictment says the group broke into cars in at least 55 locations in downtown Denver, LoDo, LoHi and RiNo.
Most of the vehicles targeted were in secured parking garages at apartment complexes, condominiums and hotels.
“They would simply follow a person who has legitimate entry into the facility,” Denver District Attorney's Office spokesman Ken Lane said.
Once inside, the criminals would go “car hopping”.
“It was like thieves in a candy store, if you will. There’s all these cars available and they would check to see if the vehicles were unlocked,” Lane said.
According to the indictment, if a vehicle was unlocked, the thieves would steal whatever property was inside. Items taken included electronics, wallets and guns.
If a vehicle’s keys were left inside, the group would drive off. Some were worth up to $40,000.
“I think the message that needs to be sent is don’t be lulled into a false sense of security,” Lane said.