Authorities staged three raids in suburban Maryland yesterday in an effort to break up a major East Coast car-theft ring that allegedly stole more than 1,000 luxury vehicles in the past year and shipped them to West Africa and the Middle East, reports the Washington Post. Mercedes, BMWs and Hummers were taken from dealerships and suburban driveways, carjacked off the street or stolen by other means in the Washington area, New York and New Jersey. They were packed onto container ships docked at New Jersey ports and shipped abroad, authorities said.
The investigation led to the arrest in Maryland of Solomon O. Asare, 31, a native of Ghana who is described by authorities as a ringleader. Eight others have also been arrested, including a Gaithersburg man who was taken into custody Friday at Dulles International Airport. In West Africa, where luxury cars are scarce and import taxes are high, the vehicles are resold for up to twice their retail value, netting members of the ring millions of dollars. In some instances, authorities said, the stolen vehicles have wound up in the hands of power elites in Ghana and elsewhere.