"If you look around this warehouse right now, there's anywhere between $55,000 to $75,000 per vehicle and they could fetch as much as three to four times that overseas," said James T. Hayes Jr., head of the New York office of Homeland Security Investigations.
The cars, he said, are being shipped to countries such as those in West Africa—where the demand is high and the supply is low. "Containers will be loaded by the organization with stolen vehicles—what we'll often times get is four vehicles in the back and then on top they will hang them with chains and put mattresses in between," Hayes added.
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Stolen vehicles are costing consumers more than $4.3 billion annually, according to National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates. Whether it's through higher prices for cars or higher prices for insurance, the auto theft boom comes with a high cost.
But authorities are having success catching the thieves before the cars are shipped. After a 2½-year investigation, federal authorities in New Jersey prosecuted one of the biggest car theft rings in the country. "We know that we recovered about 200 vehicles during the course of the investigation," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose Almonte.