FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
*Total loss exceeds $1 million
SANTA ANA, Calif. – In August 2018, detectives and investigators from the Orange County Auto Theft Task Force (OCATT), along with members of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Border and Southern Division Investigative Services Units (ISU) as well as the California Attorney General’s (CAG) Office, arrested five suspects in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and San Diego.
Arthur Ray Ammons, 40, Los Angeles; Dwon Lamont McCarthy, 43, Los Angeles; Dunya Elina Wade, 45, Los Angeles; Jedon Jennifer Olivia Nelson, 27, Los Angeles; Gaylord John Pierce, 59, Los Angeles were charged with various crimes including grand theft auto, grand theft, attempted grand theft auto, and receiving stolen property. They are expected to be arraigned at a date to be announced. Eight suspects remain outstanding and are actively being sought by the OCATT.
In September 2014, the OCATT initiated this investigation involving the theft of newer, high-end vehicles, via fraud purchase and/or the fraudulent removal of the lien holder’s (legal owners) from the vehicles title, which is also known as “title-washing.” These vehicles were than either sold to innocent buyers, traded in for legitimate vehicles, exported out of the country, and/or utilized as collateral for obtaining cash loans.
As a result of this investigation, 31 vehicles and 13 suspects were identified with 29 of the stolen vehicles being recovered. Two of the vehicles are still missing. The total value of the stolen vehicles has been estimated to be in excess of $1 million. The investigation was presented to the California SAG Office for filing. Grand jury indictments were issued for the 13 suspects identified during the investigation.
OCATT consists of one lieutenant, two sergeants, 11 detectives/investigators, and a full time deputy district attorney assisting over 30 cities that agree to participate in Orange County. OCATT’s collaborative approach allows law enforcement to assist in investigations with allied jurisdictions and recover multiple vehicles apart from their internal investigations. Investigators work diligently to identify career auto theft criminals and investigate suspicious businesses by searching for “chop shop” activity. OCATT investigates sophisticated auto theft rings that are note related to common car thefts. The task force documents various trends of auto theft including Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) switches, title washing, and rental car fraud, trains local law enforcement to identify these trends, and uses digital media to create public awareness and communicate tips to the public preventing auto theft.
In 2017, OCATT initiated 373 investigations, assisted agencies in 491 investigations, and recovered 320 stolen vehicles valued at $4,277,821. Since its inception in 1993, OCATT has successfully recovered a total of 6,202 stolen vehicles valued at $97 million, arrested 1,412 suspects, inspected thousands of vehicles, several hundred businesses, and has contributed to a 55 percent overall decrease in auto theft in Orange County.
OCATT is a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement program comprised of personnel from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, National Insurance Crime Bureau, Department of Motor Vehicles – Investigations Unit, Brea Police Department, Buena Park Police Department, Fullerton Police Department, and Tustin Police Department.
Questions regarding the investigation may be directed to OCATT Investigator Dave Navarro at (714) 532-9645.