LAUDERHILL, Fla. – A Lauderdale Lakes man was set to appear in court Tuesday on charges that he worked with two other Broward County men in an organized theft ring responsible for stealing at least 61 vehicles, investigators said.
According to a probable cause affidavit, prepared by a Lauderhill police detective and an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 36-year-old Daronn Grant was part of a group that scouted out vehicles to later be stolen.
Police said the ring operated from roughly July 2017 to May 2018.
Investigators described a calculated strategy: scouts would search for vehicles of a certain make and model that could be defeated by a key encoder device, would text each other VIN and license plate information and then would contact a locksmith to make a so-called “silver key,” allowing the suspect to unlock the doors, the report said.
According to the affidavit, the suspect could then use a key programming device to create an electronic key that would start the engine.
The report states that Grant explained this to officers when he was caught by Lauderhill police at an apartment complex at around 2 a.m. on Feb. 2, 2018.
Police had deployed a special detail in response to the string of car thefts and an officer approached Grant, asking him if he lived in the neighborhood, according to the report. He said no as he concealed something under his sweater with his left hand, it states.
The officer then asked him to take his hand out from under his sweater, it says. At that point, a device “that was clearly not an ordinary cellphone” fell out and onto the ground.
The officer detained Grant, it states, and examined the device, noting that it had “Key Programmer” written on it.
She asked Grant why he had the device and according to the report, Grant gave jumbled and conflicting stories, first telling her he bought it on OfferUp, but not elaborating further and then telling her he found it in the back of a pickup truck, but, again, not providing specifics. She arrested him for loitering and prowling.
Following Grant’s admission, police seized Grant’s phone, which included either the VIN or license plate numbers of 61 vehicles, the report states.
Stokely Lawrence, 29, of Margate and Ryan Hamitt, 40, of Tamarac were also charged in connection to the operation.
The report also identifies the locksmith involved in the operation, though it’s unclear if he faced any charges.
Grant, Lawrence and Hamitt all face multiple charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle and racketeering.