Five Indicted in Ind. for Alleged Auto Theft Ring
INDIANAPOLIS — Following their arrests after a seven-month investigation by federal, state and local authorities, five alleged members of an auto theft ring have been indicted and could each face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Officials have charged Tommy L. Thompson, Jr., of Indianapolis; Christopher Wells, of Indianapolis; Francis W. Coleman, of Laurel, Md.; Carl E. McCreary, of Frisco City, Ala.; and Fred D. Bear, Jr., of Avon, Ind., for their alleged involvement in the auto theft ring, which reportedly snatched more than 80 vehicles with a combined worth of more than $1 million.
These five were arrested on Dec. 28, after the investigation from the U.S. Secret Service and the Indiana State Police.
Aiding these agencies in their investigation were the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Greenfield Police Department, Shelbyville Police Department, Lawrence Police Department, Muncie Police Department, Greensburg Police Department, Fishers Police Department, Clarksville Police Department, Kokomo Police Department, Brownsburg Police Department, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Alabama Department of Safety and Alabama Bureau of Investigation.
Wells and Coleman are accused of entering into a June 2006 agreement to steal vehicles and then use counterfeit titles and counterfeit vehicle identification numbers. Authorities explained that this was designed so the defendants to could trick state title officials into believing the units were not stolen, allowing them to be sold.
Thompson and McCreary then allegedly joined Wells and Coleman in this plot on or about April 2007.
The four then reportedly participated in the scheme until their arrest in December.
Meanwhile, Bear was allegedly involved beginning in March 2008 all the way through September 2009.
Officials argue that the accused sent and received the counterfeit documents via Federal Express and the U.S. Postal Service.
The charges allege that Coleman, Wells and Thompson — along with others — stole vehicles within the Southern District of Indiana and other areas, as well.
Then, the alleged culprits would find vehicles in Canada that were the same make and model and copy the VIN of those units.
Coleman reportedly produced counterfeit titles and VIN stickers from Washington, D.C., or North Carolina with the information from the Canadian vehicles, and then drove or sent the counterfeit documents to Wells in Indianapolis.
At that point, Wells, Thompson and others allegedly cloned the vehicles, which were then sent to Bear or McCreary for sale.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley Shepard said all five have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Each of the defendants could see a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
All defendants except for Thompson — who remains in custody — are on pre-trial release.
Finally, officials emphasized that "an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."