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Stolen dealership vehicle returned with bullet hole

by Maggie Crane

KMOV.com

Posted on November 20, 2011 at 9:33 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 23 at 12:21 PM

(KMOV)  -- A stolen vehicle was returned Saturday to Dave Sinclair Lincoln in St. Peters. The car had a bullet hole on the driver’s side window. Police say it’s evidence that the stolen vehicles are being used to commit more crimes.

In September we told you about car thefts at two Hazelwood dealers

Sports cars appear to be the latest target of this newest heist.  It's an expensive joyride for dealerships in this economy.

"They're using them for crime, I'm sure," Royal Gate General Manager Mark Winstead says.  "Some of the vehicles just look like they were used to have a demolition derby."

Winstead has watched the surveillance tape.  He says eight to 10 men stormed onto the Royal Gate lot twice in one night and made off with nine of his high-end sports cars, like Dodge Challengers and Charges.

"More than likely they had someone on Manchester Road with a cell phone telling them the coast was clear, because after a few minutes they rolled toward Manchester Road and made a right, headed east," Winstead says.

The thieves drove onto the lot in a stolen car that had been taken from Frank Leta in O'Fallon.  They hit that lot three days earlier and also took nine cars.  The manager at Frank Leta says those were recovered.  Winstead says three of his were found in North St. Louis.  Two had minor damage, but one, he says, is totaled.

"All total, those cars were in excess of $300,000 so if we don't recover them we still have a pretty large deductible to pay these cars off," Winstead says.

Winstead says he's certain the thieves knew exactly what they were doing.  They quickly found the car's lock boxes and stole the keys.  Winstead thinks they cased the dealership the previous weekend.      

"We had a group of young people here, and they were resistant to anybody helping them out," Winstead says.  "They were here for a while, so more than likely they were scouting the place out."

Six of his cars are still missing.           

"You feel violated. You think Ellisville is a fairly safe community, and there's very little crime in West County," Winstead says.  "And for these thieves to travel 25 miles from St. Louis, where they're finding these cars, to steal, it doesn't make you feel very comfortable."

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