- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

Charles County sheriff’s officials yesterday said more arrests will be made soon in the investigation of an auto-theft ring that used tow trucks to transport stolen vehicles around the metropolitan area.

“It’s pending,” said Detective Charles Baker of the county’s auto-theft unit. “There will be more arrests.”

Sheriff’s detectives and Baltimore city police arrested Derrick Leftridge, 34, of Waldorf, Md., April 28 after tracing a van stolen from Charles County to Baltimore Scrap Corporation in Baltimore. At the site, they found Mr. Leftridge operating a truck listed to Just Say Tow with several stolen vehicles on it.

Officials said Mr. Leftridge, who was charged with several counts of possession of a stolen vehicle, is a member of a ring that has been linked to at least 14 vehicles stolen from Charles County. The ring also has been linked to vehicles stolen from Prince George’s County and the District.

Detective Baker said other tow truck drivers and companies will be charged in the investigation, which has been under way since March 1 after sheriff’s officials began receiving reports of vehicles being stolen from business parking lots in the county.

Witnesses said they had seen tow trucks in the areas where the vehicles — some of which were not in working condition — were stolen, and auto-theft detectives discovered several storage lots used as collection points for the vehicles in Prince George’s County.

The vehicles were later taken to salvage yards in Prince George’s County and Baltimore to be crushed, officials said.

The emergence of professional chop shops and tow truck thieves has, in part, caused Prince George’s County — where 18,485 vehicles were stolen last year — to form an Auto Theft and Vandalism Prevention Task Force to crack down on the problem.

But Detective Baker said the case was an abnormal one in Charles County, where 524 vehicles were stolen last year.

“This was a rarity,” he said. “It was not the usual case for us.”

Detective Baker said that the investigation into the Charles County ring is continuing and that he expected more arrests in the near future.

“We’re running it to the state attorney’s office probably as we speak,” he said.

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