A Las Vegas couple has been arrested in connection with a San Diego car theft ring dubbed "Blondie Bags the Benz," in which a blond woman drove off with four older model luxury cars, San Diego police said Friday.
Las Vegas police arrested Suzette Fitzgerald, 25, and William J. Fitzgerald, 45, on Monday at their home. In San Diego, each faces four counts of auto theft, grand theft auto, receiving stolen property and conspiracy, San Diego police Sgt. Bill Campbell said.
Authorities say that Suzette Fitzgerald would answer car-for-sale newspaper ads, usually touting a Mercedes 450 SL, and ask to test-drive the car.
Fitzgerald, who identified herself as "Kelly" or "Lisa," would then tell the seller that she was "very interested" in buying the car and wanted to have her father or a mechanic check it out.
"She obviously had a pretty good spiel," Campbell said. "Basically, people trusted her."
Once given the keys, police claim, Suzette Fitzgerald "drove off and never came back."
"She was called 'Blondie' because in each case she had blond hair," Campbell said. "She's not blond anymore." At the time of her arrest, Fitzgerald had dark brown hair.
The first car theft in the series occurred March 17. Two more Mercedes 450 SL were stolen, one June 17 in Del Mar and the other a day later in La Jolla. The theft of a Cadillac in San Diego occurred Oct. 11.
The total value of the cars was estimated at about $60,000, Campbell said.
The arrests were made after a Washington state man paid the Fitzgeralds $1,600 in cash for a Mercedes and attempted to have the registration changed.
The National Crime Information Computer showed that the car belonged to a San Diegan and was reported stolen June 17.
Las Vegas police staked out the couple's Las Vegas home, and the two were arrested when the Cadillac that was stolen Oct. 11 was seen parked outside, Campbell said. Three of the four cars were recovered at the Fitzgeralds' Las Vegas home.
The Fitzgeralds' are being held in Las Vegas on suspicion of possessing stolen property, Campbell said. The Las Vegas authorities will likely drop their charges and release the Fitzgeralds into the custody of San Diego police, he said.
"We (San Diego police) have a better case than Las Vegas," Campbell said.
After stealing the cars, police suspect that the Fitzgeralds re-registered them in New Hampshire and then again in Arizona. Campbell said he is especially interested in finding out why Department of Motor Vehicle authorities in those two states did not discover the cars were stolen.
"We're trying to find out why it was so easy for (the Fitzgeralds) to re-register the cars," he said.