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International Luxury Car Theft Ring Smashed in Southeastern Pa.

By Brad Segall

TREVOSE, Pa. (CBS) -- Pennsylvania law enforcement officials say more than two dozen people linked to an international luxury car theft ring that targeted Philadelphia area car dealerships, then shipped the autos to West Africa, were being rounded up today.

Officials say 57 cars worth more than $2.3 million disappeared.

State police say street-level thieves would steal cars, either from local dealers or through burglaries or carjackings.  Those cars were sold to a middleman who, in turn, would sell them to buyers who would package them for shipment overseas.

Police say the cars would be put in containers and then put on boats at the Port of Newark, bound for West Africa, where they were sold for a 20 to 30 percent markup.

Pennsylvania state police commissioner Frank Noonan says this kind of crime impacts not only the car dealer.

"It's also on everyone that lives in this area, because as this area becomes a center for auto theft, everybody's car insurance goes up," he said.

Police believe this operation was purely for profit and there is no indication of money laundering for other types of activity.

The investigation is ongoing, and Noonan calls this "the new face of organized crime."  As of noontime, eleven of the 26 people charged had been arrested.

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