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Five men arrested in Casa Ford car thefts

Benjamin Sanchez faces a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity theft over $150,000.

UPDATE: Police have released the names and mugshots for the five men charged in the Casa Ford car thefts.

  • Luis Lopez, 22, was charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He was jailed on a $3,000 bond.
  • Michael Owens, 21, was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, theft over $150,000. He was jailed on a $150,000 bond.
  • Marcos Molina, 20, was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, theft over $150,000. He was jailed on a $150,000 bond.
  • Benjamin Sanchez, 19, was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, theft over $150,000. He was jailed on a $150,000 bond.
  • Roman Chavez, 18, was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, theft over $150,000. He was jailed on a $275,000 bond.

Original Story:

"It caught us off guard,” Justin Lowenfield, dealer principal of Casa Ford, said.

Six cars were stolen from the lots of Casa Ford last month. Lowenfield of the dealerships says they were told by police some of their cars were on the streets without permission.

"Quickly they responded to the situation and how they were able to get all of our vehicles back,” Lownefield said. “None of the vehicles were damaged, there were parts picked apart, they were shipped off to Mexico. It could have been a lot worse."

According to police, a 2017 Ford Focus and five 2017 Mustangs were stolen.

"The Focus; it's an RS. It's a specialized Focus with a lot of horsepower and they were just really specific in what they wanted to target."

The reports say an eye-witness saw one of the stolen Mustangs and called police.

The five people are accused of stealing more than $240,000 worth of cars. Cars that aren't easy to steal.

"New vehicles today are very specific key or fob for that vehicle,” Frank Scafidi, director of public affairs, said. “Without knowing how this particular dealership handles their keys it's hard to say it was more or less safe."

Lownefield says the dealership has its keys by the windows to make it easier on customers.

"Because of the accessibility we have to make the process easier for our customers; it kind of leaves us open to exposure,” Lownefield said. “I mean they had to cut a chain to go through a gate and figure out which boxes they can get to open up to get into the cars."

Casa Ford says this situation has made them aware of how to better secure its keys for cars. It will evaluate how to lock their keys without making customers wait longer.

In a press release Thursday, a spokesperson for the police department said four of the six cars were recovered. The two Mustangs have not been found.

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