Eight people, all Armenian and Russian nationals, have been arrested on suspicion of fencing millions of dollars worth of cars overseas under the pretext of providing humanitarian aid, Los Angeles police said Wednesday.
The suspects, men and women ranging in age from 21 to 57, are suspected of using the Glendale-based charity Global Human Services as a front for their international scam, said Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Gary Brennan.
According to Brennan, participants in the scam gave their cars or SUVs to the charity, then reported the cars stolen and collected on insurance policies. Global Human Services then transported the vehicles for sale abroad in hidden compartments of shipping containers.
"They would place a luxury vehicle in the container, build a false wall to hide it, then fill the space between the wall and the opening with commodities the entire container was supposed to contain, such as clothing," Brennan said.
Over the last two years, crime ring members allegedly made about 200 such phony aid shipments to the Republic of Georgia, Jordan, Armenia and Russia, fencing about $5 million worth of stolen vehicles, he said.
The suspects, most of them residents of Los Angeles, Burbank or Glendale, were arrested Tuesday night and early Wednesday.