A Kissimmee man is being searched for by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the connection with a 27-person crime ring that was stealing and reselling luxury vehicles, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
26-year-old Jose Luis Hernandez-Mercado from Kissimmee is accused of being part of the racketeering ring called “Operation Gone in 60 Days,” that targeted luxury vehicles like Porsche, Land Rover, and Maserati over a five-year period. Hernandez-Mercado, faces charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle, selling stolen property, and possession of a motor vehicle with an altered VIN.
According to FDLE, the 27-person crime ring would illegally acquire the vehicles by using couriers, fake names and fraudulent payments to “purchase” the vehicles from dealerships who wouldn’t discover the fraud until after the vehicles were already sold from the lot. Another vehicle-acquisition scheme saw the suspects keeping rental vehicles and filing false police reports claiming the vehicles had been stolen.
Investigators found that the organization’s leader would then generate counterfeit VINs to attach to the vehicle to further cover up the thefts. Since the vehicles were obtained illegally and lacked legitimate paperwork that could be used to register them, another suspect, who worked in a Miami-based dealership, issued temporary tags from the dealership or transferred a tag from a legitimate vehicle to the fraudulent vehicle. Suspects would also purport to sell auto insurance to customers purchasing the stolen vehicles, which would often result in customers receiving an initial policy that quickly lapsed as the suspects kept the actual payments provided.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “Organized theft has no place in Florida, and I am grateful for the collaborative efforts by our law enforcement partners and my statewide prosecutors in shutting down this massive car theft ring. These criminals thought they could evade the law, and now they will answer for their crimes.”
In addition to the 23 suspects already arrested and the two more with active arrest warrants, agents have filed two additional arrest affidavits with the court, for a total of 27 suspects.