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Undercover agents bust gang for car thefts, auto insurance fraud

An undercover operation by multiple law enforcement agencies led to the arrest of 52 people in Santa Cruz, California suspected in gang-related crimes including car theft and auto insurance fraud.

The undercover sting, called Operation Money Train, involved an 11-month investigation that targeted stolen cars and drug and gun running, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Authorities ran their operation out of a phony auto shop set up last June, where undercover agents relied on word-of-mouth to attract car thieves who brought stolen vehicles to the shop to sell.

Some of the stolen vehicles sold to the phony auto shop were owner give-ups -- an auto insurance fraud scheme where the scammers sell a car and then report it stolen and file a claim with the insurance company.

Authorities said the sting netted 57 stolen vehicles worth approximately $500,000, the Sentinel reported.

The suspects also sold stolen property to the undercover agents, including catalytic converters, personal identification and guns.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported that claims related to owner give-ups increased 24 percent this year compared to 2008.

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