SAN DIEGO (CBS) — Four Southland residents are behind bars on Thursday in a cross-border car theft ring that shipped luxury vehicles to Iraq.
KNX 1070’s Tom Reopelle reports 13 people in all were arrested in what federal law enforcement officials dubbed “Operation Hot Wheels”.
Sabah Hermiz, 57, of Sterling Heights, Mich., and El Cajon residents Sala Hanna, 57, Samir Daly, 48, and Ramzi Yousef, 58, were arrested in the San Diego area this week.
The two-year-old investigation targeted Iraqi nationals who would rent expensive cars from national chains in Michigan and Ohio, drive them across the border into Canada, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
They would then file police reports claiming the vehicles were carjacked or stolen in the Detroit area, officials said.
“Several of the vehicles involved were rented in El Cajon and driven from El Cajon to Detroit and into Canada,” said ICE spokesman Dan Paige.
In addition to the suspects arrested in El Cajon, nine others were arrested in Detroit. All are facing federal charges of transporting stolen property. In addition, Hermiz faces conspiracy charges, according to ICE.
Danieal Korkis, 46, also of Sterling, Mich., remains at large, according to ICE.
The arrests come weeks after several Iraqi-Americans in early August were charged with smuggling drugs across the border and shipping them to Detroit.