Grand theft charges have been filed against a man who allegedly took vehicle identification numbers from junked cars, fastened them to 29 stolen sports cars, then sold the cars to a Van Nuys car dealer, the California Highway Patrol said Tuesday.
John Riley Dean, 28, of Los Angeles also was charged with receiving stolen property, culminating a four-month investigation, the CHP said. Dean is being held in County Jail in lieu of $127,500 bail.
The scheme may wind up victimizing the people who purchased the cars between November, 1985, and March, 1986, from M & A Auto Sales of Van Nuys, the dealer that resold the cars without knowing they were stolen, CHP Sgt. Don Henderson said.
In most cases, the cars will become the property of the insurance companies for the original theft victims, meaning those who later purchased the vehicles will suffer the loss, he said.
"A majority of them had a reaction of disbelief," Henderson said.
Twenty-six of the cars were recovered recently from people around the Los Angeles area, two were recovered in Honolulu and one in San Francisco, Henderson said. He estimated that the cars are worth more than $150,000.
Dean stole Chevrolet Corvettes, Camaro Z-28s and Pontiac Trans-Ams, then replaced metal plates with the vehicle identification numbers, which the car maker screws into the dashboard, with plates taken from cars he bought from junkyards, according to the CHP.