CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – A total of 500 state felony charges have been filed on several suspects in connection to a prevalent luxury vehicle theft ring that operated in the Carolinas and several other states, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police announced on Thursday.

CMPD announced that in April 2023 they launched their Stolen Car And Recovery Law Enforcement Team (SCARLET) to address an increasingly alarming trend of luxury car thefts from dealerships and homes across Mecklenburg County.

Luxury vehicles that had also been reported stolen from other areas were being found in the Charlotte area ‘at a much higher rate,’ CMPD explained.

Within four months of SCARLET in operation, CMPD detectives worked with 50 other agencies across 11 states, as well as federal agencies that had been working similar cases for years.

CMPD said since April, they have been able to find 132 stolen vehicles with an approximate value of $11.5 million. They said 500 felony charges have been filed on several suspects.

More than 70 search warrants related to SCARLET investigations resulted in the seizure of $210,000 in cash, 82 firearms, eight of which were reported stolen, and narcotics.

Five suspects have been federally indicted, so far. They have been identified as Dewanne Lamar White, 43, of Sumter SC, Garyka Vaughn Bost, 24, of Denver, NC, Reginald Eugene Hill, 23, of Charlotte, Hosea Fernandez Hampton, Jr., 25, of Charlotte, and Kevin Ja’Coryen James Fields, 27, of Charlotte. These five individuals were recently included in a U.S. Dept. of Justice release.

All five have been charged with conspiracy to transport, possess, and sell stolen vehicles in interstate commerce, and interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle. White, Fields, and Hampton are also charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle, authorities said.

According to allegations listed in the federal indictment, from 2021-2023, the suspects engaged in a conspiracy to steal luxury vehicles worth millions from dealerships in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi among others.

Authorities said the suspects would transport the stolen luxury vehicles back to Charlotte and sell them locally at prices well below market value.

The thefts were executed in a number of ways, authorities said. In some cases, the suspects would visit the dealerships posing as customers interested in buying the vehicles. After pretending to test drive them, they would reportedly swap the vehicles’ key fobs with similar ones, and later use the stolen key fobs to steal the vehicles.

Other times, authorities said the suspects would do “smash and grab” thefts, where they would break into the dealerships and locate the keys, or break open the lock boxes containing the keys, and then drive the stolen vehicles right off the lot.

The indictment states that Bost, Fields, and Hill were often the drivers, and White and Hampton frequently paid them and other drivers for their work in the scheme.

Authorities said the suspects were able to avoid police by removing the GPS navigation and tracking systems from the stolen vehicles, attaching fake dealer tags or stolen license plates on the vehicles, and replacing the vehicles’ authentic Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN).

“The overwhelming majority of these motor vehicles were Dodge Chargers and Challengers, but also included many other luxury models such as Audi, Mercedes Benz, Range Rover, Cadillac, and BMW,” CMPD said on Thursday.

“There is still much more to be done with this investigation,” said CMPD Lieutenant Warith Muhammad during Thursday’s news conference. “However, CMPD is incredibly proud of the work, diligence, and dedication that went into identifying a problem and working tirelessly to solve that problem.”

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The charge of conspiracy to transport, possess, and sell stolen vehicles in interstate commerce carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, authorities said.

The charges of interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle and possession of a stolen vehicle each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.