HPD: High-tech methods behind massive theft of Jeep, Dodge cars

Friday, August 5, 2016
Thieves use laptop to steal Jeep, Dodge vehicles
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Police say a high-tech crime ring is using dealership information to hack and steal Chrysler vehicles.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It only took 6 minutes for high-tech thieves to steal Jeeps and Dodge cars, according to HPD. The department announced Thursday that it had caught two men who were behind that massive plot.

The two men apparently used a laptop and pirated software to start the vehicles and take off. HPD said the vehicles made it into Mexico.

It was in the middle of the day when Mike Hammette realized his Jeep was gone.

"(I) parked it around 1:30pm and walked out at 4," said Hammette. "My pride and joy was stolen."

That was the same story HPD heard over and over from several Jeep owners in the Houston area. Police were aware Jeep and Dodge vehicles were being stolen for months, but they just didn't know how and who until home surveillance video surfaced from one victim.

"In that video, you see a guy walk up to the car carrying a laptop computer," said Jim Woods with HPD. "(He) uses the laptop and -- within 6 minutes -- starts the Jeep, backs up the Jeep out of driveway."

Police said two men were behind it all are Michael Arcee and Jesse Zelaya.

"There's a possibility they may not be the only ones that are doing this, but right now we feel if they are the only ones that are doing this, with this arrest we hope we will be able to curb the amount of thefts occurring," said Woods.

HPD said it's nearly impossible to stop this high-tech crime especially if someone else has the same pirated software.

"It was quite heartbreaking actually," said Hammette when he realized his Jeep was stolen.

Hammette isn't sure if his Jeep ended up on the other side of the border, but said the pair of thieves won't discourage him.

"Like I told my little boy, we will find another one and start over," he said.