Video: ‘To Catch a Car Thief’

By Victoria Corderi Correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/11/2007 1:31:02 AM ET 2007-04-11T05:31:02
TRANSCRIPT

Every 30 seconds in the U.S., a car is stolen. And if your car is stolen, don’t expect to get it back. Nationally, only about 60 percent of them are ever recovered. Catching car thieves can be difficult and dangerous. Dateline takes its hidden cameras inside an undercover police sting, and on one wild ride. This report aired April 10, Tuesday, on Dateline NBC.

On a Tuesday night at Hottyz, a bar in southwest Houston, Texas, the party’s just getting started with plenty of booze and plenty of dancers playing to a rough crowd.

They work hard, play hard: Like this guy, known as “Grenias,” who is celebrating his success at work. He’s planning more business after hours in the bar’s parking lot.

"Grenias": If he really wants to make the money, I’ll take him personally.

And how does he make his money? He’s a car thief. And he recently made a new connection to a fencing operation at this warehouse where he can sell the stolen cars for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Hidden cameras catch him on the job, selling a stolen truck to a fence—someone who routinely buys cars and other stolen goods. He’s obviously found a gold mine: for months he’s been going back again and again.

And there appears to be lots of money to go around. Grenias’ comrades at the club also seem pumped up over the new found st0len car connection.

Meet “Big George”, he’s also been to the warehouse. He has a rap sheet with drug and a theft convictions.

He’s a big talker and he tells the fence he has access to a friend with some special guns.

"Big George": He has a ceramic pistol also. You can take it through the metal detectors and it won’t go through. It won’t beep.

"Big George": That’s the main one I wanted you to see. I know if you see that and you like it, I know you’re gonna want some.

Tio, undercover police: Really?

"Big George" is a regular at Hottyz and this party lasts late into the night. Most of the men are associates or members of street gangs looking to make deals and the fence says he’s their man.

Tio: I’m looking to be able to deal with somebody that I can deal with on a regular basis.

P: Hey, man, I’m here man, you know. It ain’t no problem.

He tries to convince them that his warehouse is a place where they can turn their crimes into cash. The fence is receiving calls from interested thieves all over town.

A warehouse is a meeting place for all sorts of street hoods with stolen cars to sell— from experienced carjackers, to a sweet-talking under-age girl and seasoned ex-cons.

These thieves are just one reason auto theft is such big business—more than a million cars are stolen each year in the United States, about one every 26 seconds.  It forces insurance rates up and leaves a trail of real victims behind.

But while these thieves spend the night celebrating and planning on future riches from stealing cars in the days to come, there’s something they don’t know about this big new fencing operation: it’s really an undercover operation of the Houston Police Department.

You’re about to get a rare glimpse into the world of undercover cops—with its dangers and disappointments, risks and rewards. The cops will be playing a high stakes game that pits them against thieves—criminals who at any moment might catch on to the sting.

And from start to finish, Dateline’s hidden cameras will be watching.  We’ll take you from the streets to the fencing operation to the hunt for the suspects... and if all goes well, to their capture.

A warehouse is being converted into a major fencing operation. 

The Houston Police Department allowed us to install hidden cameras and watch officers buy stolen cars and other contraband. 

Lt. Victor Rodriguez, who heads the operation, told us the kind of people they’d be dealing with.

Lt. Rodriguez: They have partying to pay for and drug habits to pay for.  And they do it by victimizing people like you and me.

He hopes to get stolen cars back to the owners and put a dent in Houston’s auto theft rate—by taking down the thieves.

Here’s the plan: Undercover policemen will pose as fences who buy cars and other stolen goods to ship out of the country. It’s vital the operation remain secret—if any of the crooks grow suspicious, the cops could get themselves killed.

There’s a lot at stake not just for the police—but for one man, an informant who’s going to help lure criminals to the warehouse.

We’ve disguised the undercover cops who are running the operation. They told us about the informant.

Tio, undercover police: He said he wanted to get out of the gang life—wanted to cooperate with us so that maybe he might be able to find a way out of that group...to clean up his life.

Their informant has a long rap sheet, a drug habit and a violent lifestyle. He says where and how he grew up made him what he is today.

Informant: I never did have a choice.

Victoria Corderi:  You didn’t feel like you had a choice?

Corderi: To not be a gang-banger.

Informant:  It’s just I grew up in this. There’s no way out of this right now.

The cops have worked out a deal to pay him cash for the information he provides. That could be his way out of criminal life—but he also knows he’s playing with fire.

On this night—he’s not very optimistic.

Corderi: You think it could cost you your life?

Informant:  It is gonna cost me my life.

Using him also could be risky for the cops—

Corderi: So, how did you go about deciding he was someone you could trust?

Tio: We never really could figure out whether or not we be able to trust him but we were certainly gonna check up on him and try to figure out what his intentions were.

So far, he’s provided them with reliable information, so they decide to use him. Within days, the garage is rigged and ready.

The informant’s job is to get the word out about the new fencing operation in town. On the streets, he vouches for the fencing operation.

But will his fellow car thieves take the bait? 

Apparently they did. They find out there are crooks ready to do business. And it’s show time.

The team of cops gathers in a nearby parking lot to review plans. One night, they were meeting with thieves—and the undercover informant will be with them. 

We’re expecting three crooks tonight to come with one spy.

The undercover cop playing the role of ringleader calls the informant to finalize details. The lieutenant and seven of his men fan out in the neighborhood around the warehouse. Another team sets up in the surveillance room, armed and ready to move in if there’s trouble.

In fact, everything is in place: except for the car thieves. They’re an hour and a half late.

Then—suddenly—here they come and the meeting is on. 

Police are surprised when several cars arrive—and seven suspects and the informant pile out... they were expecting three.  If something goes wrong, the cops inside are outnumbered.

The thieves with the stolen cars seem guarded, wary. And the cops say pulses are racing…

Tio: The tension in there the very first night is horrible. Could probably slice it with a knife. Everybody’s watching everybody. They look like a bunch of thugs!

The undercover cops posing as fences break that tension by getting down to business. They start negotiating. 

Undercover police man: Who’s the Honda? Yours? How much you want?

The thieves want to unload two vehicles.

Undercover police: Come on in here and let’s take care of business.

The fence pays the men $400 for the Honda and $400 for the truck.

It’s a nerve-wracking startthe undercover cops inside were outnumbered and they didn’t know if the thieves would buy their cover story.   But they did—the cops seems to have passed the test. The first meeting is over.

Corderi: Who seems most dangerous to you as you’re meeting them? 

Tio: They all look so suspicious. They could do anything.

Corderi:  Do you get nervous?

Tio: Oh, sure.  Everybody gets nervous, especially in a situation like that. But you know we try employ our skills—we’re trained, most of the time everything goes well. 

Still, they say they’re feeling confident they are on their way to gaining the thieves’ trust. 

And they expect business to pick up.

Tio: I figured these guys are gonna get back to their hoods, they gonna tell some of their boys, and the word’s gonna get out.

Reuben, undercover police: Network it around.  Spread the word. That’s what happens.

Within days it becomes clear there’s plenty of interest on the street. Remember "Big George"?  He shows up with three stolen cars for sale. Sometimes, though, the negotiations get testy.

On another night these men bring in a late model car—and want a thousand dollars more than the fence is willing to pay. One of the thieves seems agitated.

"Smokey": You can’t give us at least a “g”?

Undercover police: That’s seven. 

Sensing trouble other undercover cops file into the office to provide backup in case things get violent.

The fence pretends to be annoyed, role-playing so he doesn’t appear too eager and arouse suspicion.

Undercover police: How much I give you - did I just give you eight? Man that’s all I can give you all.

"Smokey": You can’t just give us like another 100?

Tio: I just gave you another 100. 

The thieves leave the room to confer, then come back and reluctantly agree to the sale.

But not every night is so difficult. A lighter mood prevails when this man—who calls himself “Whiteboy”—brags about how easy it was to steal the expensive car he brought in.

Undercover police: Look like you got dealership keys!

"Whiteboy": Hahaha.

It seems Whiteboy’s day job has benefits, he installs electronic equipment - and that gives him easy access to car keys of unsuspecting home-owners.

Undercover police:  Where’d you get this key?

"Whiteboy": At that house.

Undercover police: Really? Were you in there putting a TV in there too?

"Whiteboy": I do. I do A.C. work, I do custom installation for plasma’s.

Undercover police: What year model is it?

"Whiteboy": 2006! 

Undercover police: 06?

"Whiteboy": Infiniti - QX.

He justifies stealing the $60,000 car by saying the owners owe him money.

"Whiteboy": You don’t f---k with my money or my family and everything is straight I’m gonna tell ya..

Tio: You’re getting them back for sure, that’s an expensive car there.

But the cops are looking for more than cars - they’re constantly probing to find out what else the suspects are into. Like guns.

Tio: Do you know where we can get some AKs?

One man says he has a connection who can supply automatic weapons—ak47’s.

P:...straight out the box, man. Straight out the box.

Tio: We’ll buy them right out the box as long as they’re fully auto. 

P: Man! I’m glad you said that... straight out the box. I’ll make a phone call right now.

Tio: Call him,  we’ll wait on him.

He says he’s ready to set up another line of business selling guns. And so is that thief named "Grenias," who suddenly whips out a semi-automatic.

Tio: Put it away. Put it away.

He’s a regular at the warehouse, this time offering guns for sale, showing off a sample of what he can deliver. Another man sells an ounce of cocaine to the undercover cops and says he can deliver kilos of cocaine.

Santiago: How you want? The good stuff or the step up?  It’s going to be good, but which one you want?

The stakes have just been raised.  Now things are going to get to get even more intense... cars, drugs and guns. It's a dangerous equation.

And to get closer to—to help build a case, the cops are going to have to leave the security of the warehouse with its monitoring equipment and extensive police backup.

And if that’s not risky enough, the scenario becomes even more dangerous when the undercover cops learn they themselves could be the target of an ambush...

The undercover cops from the Houston police department are now immersed in gang life.

The stolen car sting is now netting more dangerous contraband: guns and drugs.  And to get a line into those worlds—they need to penetrate more deeply.

Tio, undercover police officer: They sleep all day.  And then they smoke pot and do cocaine and do whatever they do all night long...

Victoria Corderi, Dateline correspondent:  And you have to be on their timetable.

Tio: Yes.

Reuben: Yes. Yeah, it’s long hours.

Corderi: And not knowing what the outcome is going to be.

Tio: Correct. Right

They decide to spend time with the suspects on their turf—at their favorite hangout.

That’s when the action moved to the bar Hottyz—pounding music videos, writhing women. And for the undercover cops opportunity to make more deals and get more intel on the suspects and other prospects.

Tio: We get to meet some guys that haven’t been to the warehouse who are sometimes there. They want to talk about business.

The undercover cops are playing host, buying bucket after bucket of beer. That’s when the talk turns to drugs. One suspect says he can supply ecstasy.

Undercover police (hidden camera footage): I might want some more.

Another suspect sells the cops cocaine and claims he has a lot more where that came from.

Undercover police: Cocaine. Each one of these is packages of cocaine.

They take the conversation outside. The undercover cop says he’s not sure the cocaine deal is worth it—and the suspect reassures him.

P: Oh man, you ain’t gotta worry about that S--- The dude I get it from is straight Columbian guy.

And, he says, the drug dealer also sells guns.

P: He’s the one who has the connections on the guns, like the AK he had that he was going to get like a Russian machine gun.

As if stolen cars, guns and drug deals weren’t enough the cops soon find out they may have something else to handle: they themselves may have become targets of a robbery at the warehouse.  It’s not that the undercover cops have been discovered, it’s because one of the suspects thinks the fencing operation has a lot of cash and is worth hitting.

Tio: They were all gonna pull pistols and rob us all because they were under the impression that we had a lot of money.

At the next warehouse meeting the cops are concerned this may be the day they get robbed.

When the thieves arrive, the suspects back their cars into the garage, something they’ve never done before—it’s as though they’re planning a quick getaway.

The surveillance team makes plans to converge on the warehouse if violence erupts. But luckily the showdown never comes, the suspects simply make the deal and leave.

Later, the cops learn the robbery plans have been called off. Other suspects told them  one admitted carjacker came up with the idea, but, ironically, another thief—named Grenias—stopped him.

Tio:  Grenias told me that he talked him out of it and told him, “Hey, you’re crazy. Why do you wanna do that? This guy is here. We can use him.  We can bring whatever we need to sell to him, he’s always going to buy it from us.

Corderi: Basically, Grenias saved your operation?

Tio: Yes, he did.

And why shouldn’t he? The thief, Grenias, is making good money—constantly calling the cops with stolen cars for sale.

In fact, he’s relentless. At one point police see him allegedly supervising the sale of three stolen cars in a parking lot with his newborn and toddler in tow.

In the meantime, police are collecting information about all of the suspects—anything that will help to identify them, like tattoos. 

Undercover police: What’s the “tatt” on you?

P: Africa.

Undercover police: Oh that’s pretty cool.

P: Yeah. Just decided to get something that means something.

Undercover police: Yeah pretty cool.

Outside, surveillance teams track licenses and addresses, tailing the suspects whenever they can. They trade off cars every so often to avoid detection.

During the day, police continue surveillance on the suspects’ homes. One belongs to Grenias, the one who keeps popping up at the warehouse. Police think his next deal is parked in the driveway.

The next day, they continue to track the truck.

Grenias, the thief, drives it to a nearby parking lot.

Police wait until he gets out of the truck to make a phone call. 

The officer reaches the truck, checks its identification numbers, and walks away before the suspect returns. 

Later that night, Grenias arrives at the warehouse with the stolen truck. 

He brags he does more than just steal cars. He’s a tough guy too—

"Grenias": I shot a bunch of people.

That’s his world: crime, guns and gangs. In fact, most of the suspects have lengthy records. But there are some surprises.

Undercover police: Did you get that thing, it’s too big of  a truck for you?

Jacqui: No, I love trucks.

16 year-old Jacqui says she just graduated from high school and plans to go to college. Police say she was sent in by one of the thieves to fence a stolen truck.

Undercover police:  What are you supposed to get for it? What do you think it’s worth?

Jacqui: $2,000.

Undercover police: We’ll give you $800 for it.

Jacqui: Give me a thousand.

Undercover police: It’s a Dodge. We’ve got too many Dodges.

Jacqui: Yeah, but how many do you get from a hot girl?

Then she promises even more stolen merchandise.

Jacqui: If you give me a thousand, I can bring in a Mercedes tomorrow.

Undercover police: How you gonna do that?

Jacqui: ‘Cause my friend has one.

She does return with an older friend—but not with a Mercedes, instead with a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Undercover police: That’s your boyfriend’s car?

Anastasia: Yeah.

Undercover police: He told you to bring it?

Anastasia: Yeah, he just gave me the car or whatever.

Undercover police: To bring it down here or just to have it?

Anastasia: No, he just told me I could have it it and I didn’t want it.

Police say they later learn she’s lying: Her boyfriend allegedly carjacked the vehicle, and beat up the owner.

And her boyfriend isn’t the only carjacker flushed out by the sting – one criminal brags about how he has the keys to stolen cars.

"Twenty": I got the key to that one, key to that one.

Undercover police: How’d you get the keys, man?

He shows them how— with a gun. Police immediately try to buy the gun to get it out of his hands and off the street.

Undercover police: Hey let me buy that off you dude

They negotiate a little bit. But the thief hesitates.

Later, the police try again.

Undercover police: Hey man, let me look at that piece of s--- one more time.

"Twenty": Man...

Undercover police: Unload it, unload it.

"Twenty": Yeah I’m going to unload it here.  

Undercover police:  How come I can’t buy this off of you, man?

Undercover police: How much did you pay for it?

"Twenty": I paid $250 for that.

The carjacker finally agrees to sell the gun along with the cars.

Tio: Let’s settle up, how much you want for them cars together.

"Twenty": Two.

Undercover police: Two grand for both them cars?

"Twenty":  Both of them.

"Twenty": You know what, man. I got keys, I got low mileage, I’m giving you what you need.

He makes a tidy profit—but the cops score too. The gun they buy can be used as evidence... instead of as a weapon in another carjacking.

Tio: Once we found out he was actually robbing people at gunpoint, we couldn’t continue to allow him to run the streets and continue robbin’ people and takin’ their cars and bringin’ ‘em over to us and sellin’ them.

Still, they say it’s only a matter of time before he gets another weapon. They want to stop him before he strikes again. They have to decide - when do they want to start arresting the sting suspects. How long can they let known these criminals can roam the streets?

They decide it’s time to cut them off before someone gets hurt—or killed.

For months the undercover operation has been successful. The cops have bought 33 stolen cars at the warehouse from 24 suspects. 

It’s quite a haul. But could it be the sting is causing more crimes than usual? The police say no.

Lt. Victor Rodriguez: We’re catching criminals and not creating criminals.  We’re dealing with people that have criminal histories of stealing cars, robbing people, the whole gamut.

Victoria Corderi, Dateline correspondent: That this is what they’re doing anyway?

Lt. Rodriguez: Exactly.

During the sting, one of the thieves swiped one man’s car.

Dixon, victim: I came back outside and the car was gone.

Another carjacked another man’s Mustang:

Simone: I was more or less, “Just take my car and go.”

And another shot this man when he fought back.

Violent carjackers with the gun cannot remain on the street, police say, so even if it jeopardizes the sting, they decide to make a move.

They arrest him as he is driving a stolen car he intends to sell. His case is pending.

And they arrest another admitted carjacker too.

Corderi: You just felt you had to.

Tio, undercover police: Right.

Corderi: So two carjackers are in jail. How do you know that they’re not piecing things together for the other guys who are still out on the street?

Tio: We don’t know.

Corderi: So, they could be exposing you.

Tio: They could.  But there’s nothing we can do about that.

So even though they’ve begun making arrests, the police still have to keep the sting going, hoping that the jailed carjackers won’t catch on. It’s a new, higher level of risk for the undercover officers.

During that time, they decide they have to arrest Grenias too - you remember him, he’s the most frequent warehouse visitor. They want to stop him before he hurts someone.

Little does "Grenias" know while he’s selling the stolen truck, police are waiting to arrest him after he leaves on a charge unrelated to the sting. His case is still pending.

Corderi: At what point do you say, “enough is enough?”  Time to pull the plug on this...

Tio: When we feel like we’ve got about as much as we’re gonna be able to get.

And after five months working the sting, the cops have dozens of stolen cars, cocaine, mountains of incriminating videotape and a few preliminary arrests out of the way... now they decide it’s time for the big roundup.

In order not to expose the cops involved in the fencing operation yet still get these suspects off the street the police create a sting within a sting.

Here’s how it’ll work: Undercover cops again invite the warehouse suspects to that club where they like to hang out and party. It turns out the club Hottyz has been suspected of prostitution. So a separate unit of vice squad cops will raid the place and arrest them and everyone else in a dragnet.

The thieves will never guess these arrests have anything to do with the cars they stole.

Corderi: Sort of a surprise party.

Lt. Rodriguez: Surprise party, right. That would give us an extra day to be able to go out and—and catch those stragglers that didn’t make it to the club. Best case scenario: All these crooks come, they stay in the club and we’re ready to go and we pop ‘em.

There to “pop em” is an army of about 60 police either inside the club or in the neighborhood, ready for anything.

Dateline is along for the ride with hidden cameras, posing as friends of the undercover cops.

As we enter the club, a newly-hired security guard searches our producer’s purse, which is full of hidden camera gear. It’s a tense moment.

The cops stand by anxiously, but the cameras go undiscovered...

We sit near the dance floor and wait. Meanwhile surveillance teams set up outside the club.  But there’s a hitch—something’s wrong. The sting within the sting isn’t working.  There’s no steady stream of gangbangers arriving to party.

One man did show up at the club with a stolen truck to sell. But the undercover cops send him away because he’s not one of the suspects. What he doesn’t know is while he was inside, police outside put a spike under the tire of the stolen truck

Watching the thief drive off on a leaking tire provides a moment of comic relief...

But it’s no laughing matter when police see the thief stop at a gas station - the perfect time to take him down.

Despite that, this highly orchestrated bust is, well, a bust.  The cops waited three hours for the suspects.

Corderi: What was going through your mind during those hours that the door would open and no one was coming?

Tio: Well I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong.

Not one warehouse suspect showed.

Tio: We didn’t know how, but—these people somehow had been alerted.

Corderi: Are you thinking that three months of my life spent on this, living this life and this is all going south?

Tio: Yes.

There’s confusion as the police meet up in the parking lot. What happened?  Did the main informant  betray the operation to save his hide?  Did the word get out?

The undercover cops are about to find out.

The police are now working against the clock. 

The five-month long sting may have been a success, but the arrest plan was a failure:  not one suspect showed up at the local club where they were supposed to be arrested.

Were the suspects tipped off?  The cops need a backup plan and fast. So they decide to make the busts the hard way—one by one.

Tio, undercover police: We had no time to lose and we had to make some quick decisions as to what we were gonna do.  And we had to act on ‘em. 

The next morning, the police decide to fan out across the area, track the suspects down and start making arrests.

Right away, they get lucky— a suspect calls the undercover cop to sell him a stolen car. The cop offers to give him a ride right into a trap.

Two patrolmen are told to pull them over and tell the suspect there is a warrant for his arrest. He’s purposefully vague so the thief doesn’t know it has anything to do with the warehouse deals.

The patrolmen know the undercover cop is still in character so he frisks him and the real thief. It works and the arrest goes smoothly.

They are looking for more than 20 suspects. Some of them are lounging at home when the police arrive. 

As the day wears on, the officers are pleased with the tally. One by one the thieves are picked up—they are told for a variety of crimes. None of them know yet it’s because they sold stolen cars at the warehouse.

Next, they spot another suspect at a gas station and arrest him.

Another suspect is leaving on a bicycle when police approach.

In all, 18 suspects are now in custody.  It turns out the cops fears about their own informant  having turned on them were unfounded.

He called them to explain why nobody showed up at the party the night before.

Tio: They had become very suspicious. They thought they were being watched.  And—

Reuben: Paranoid.

Tio: Paranoid. Basically had retreated from coming to the party.

Victoria Corderi, Dateline correspondent: But they didn’t connect that with you?

Informant: No, even at that point I don’t believe they did. They just knew there was heat out there.

Finally, the suspects  are in custody.

And now the moment of truth.  Because time has come to let them in on the real reason they were all arrested and let them know Dateline has been taping the entire thing.

More than 20 men now face charges ranging from auto theft to drug dealing to engaging in organized crime. Any confusion they may have had about how the cops knew what they’d been up to was about to be cleared up.

One by one, they meet with the police who let them in on a secret: the fencing operation actually was a police sting. And every transaction  in the warehouse was caught on tape.

Some of them agreed to watch our videotape from the warehouse—watch themselves selling stolen property.  What did they have to say?   

P: I haven’t stole—physically stole anything. I only looked out.

P:  That’s it.

Corderi:  But you’re here accepting money for the car, right?

P: But that money wasn’t even for me.

Corderi: What do you think when you look at this?

P: I feel like a loser now, watching myself.

He later pleaded guilty to an organized crime charge.

Another man said he was just a driver.

Davidson: I mean I don’t steal the cars.  They just send me to drive them.

Organized crime charges against him are still pending.

And remember "Big George"?

Corderi: What was your role in the operation?

"Big George": One-time thing, they tell me it was quick. I didn’t even steal no car or nothing.  I just drove 25 feet.

Corderi: You know, everyone I talked to says they were just driving.

"Big George": I just drove—

Corderi: It reminds me of when I go to jail and everyone says they’re innocent.

"Big George": Yes ma’am.

Corderi: So, is that true?

"Big George": No, not me. I mean, I don’t even know how to steal a car, you know, honest to God. 

He says the cops have it all wrong. Remember when he said he could deliver special guns?

"Big George": You can take it through a metal detector and it won’t go through, it won’t beep.

Now he says that was all talk.

Corderi: Now you’re talking that you can get ceramic pistols. What about that?

"Big George":  I was just bulls***ing with the guy, seeing if he’ll buy into it.

Corderi: Here you’re making it like you’re a big player in this video.

"Big George":  I was trying to make the dude that was giving me the money think, you know, that I had not that we can get more. 

He pleaded guilty to organized crime charges.

One of the men who said he could find a machine gunnow, he says differently as well.

"Smokey": I was just bullsh**ing him.  I was just talking sideways.

But he did plead guilty to aggravated theft.

Only one of the men we spoke with made no excuses: "Whiteboy."

"Whiteboy": The opportunity was there. I took it. And that’s that. I know I’m going to serve lots of time then for my mistake and that’s all I can do. And I obviously made a mistake, I do realize that.

"Whiteboy" says it’s a matter of money. He has none… and his victims seem to have plenty.

"Whiteboy":  Wealthy people having plenty of money. I know it’s cars, I know they got, you know, full coverage insurance, it’s just gonna be replaced later on.

Corderi: So, what’s the harm?

"Whiteboy": Yeah.

"Whiteboy" also pleaded guilty to organized crime charges and the few remaining cases of those arrested are still pending.

And what about the informant who helped take his fellow thieves off the street? 

Remember he said he’d wanted to cooperate so he could make money and escape the gang life? He made $18,000 for his role in the sting. Has he been able to start a new life?

Tio, undercover police officer: He spent those $18,000.  It’s gone.

Corderi: Gone?

Tio:  Up his nose, drinking it, running with his buddies—

Corderi: And he got in trouble again?

Tio: And since then, he’s been arrested twice.

Corderi: So, that made it clear to you that what?

Tio: That he’s not willing to change and get outta that lifestyle.

In fact, when we spoke with the informant, he said he was preparing for the worst if and when people find out he was the snitch.

Corderi:  Have you been in fear since the sting?  Have you been scared?

Informant: Well there’s a lot of guns pointed at me again. Payback’s a b**ch.

Corderi:   You think you’re in for payback?

Informant: I’m not in for payback, I’m just ready for it.

Police say the informant on drug charges.And the undercover cops?  They’re already working new cases.

What they leave behind are some very grateful people. There were 33 victims to be exact—victims of auto thefts and carjackings who got back vehicles they never expected to see again.

So the warehouse operation is out of business for now. And across town, that girlie bar faces prostitution and other vice charges. It is missing a crew of regulars—men who had no idea that this night of fun just a few months before, was really a goodbye party.

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