Federal and California state law enforcement authorities have broken up a sophisticated auto-theft ring run by a Tijuana-based motorcycle club that swiped 150 Jeep Wranglers in San Diego County over the past several years. The Jeeps, worth $4.5 million, were sold in Mexico or stripped for parts that were then sold in Mexico.
Authorities said the thieves exploited a design feature of the Jeep Wrangler, gained access to a proprietary database that contains codes used to create duplicate keys for each car and then used a high-tech computer to get away with the cars.
Thieves would target a Jeep in a San Diego neighborhood, getting the critical vehicle identification number. Armed with that, they accessed the key database, which contained two special codes: one for creating a pattern to make a new key and the second that programmed a computer chip in the key that was linked to the car's computer system.
It's not precisely clear how the thieves got access to the database, but a car dealership in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the Baja peninsula appears to be involved.
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