Rick Hepp at the Star-Ledger reports:
Grabowski and his crew would buy junked or damaged vehicles at auctions and look for similar newer cars to steal. Once they found a car they wanted, they would get its vehicle identification number, usually found in sales ads or right on the car's windshield.
Today's newer car keys can only be duplicated if their computer chips are programmed according to the vehicle identification numbers. Car owners who lose their keys and want duplicates generally go to locksmiths who program the new keys by getting "key codes" from database companies hired by auto manufacturers.
Posing as a locksmith, Grabowski got these codes from the database companies and then made brand new keys. His crew took the keys and simply drove off with the cars.
Before selling the cars, they made them look legitimate by switching the vehicle identification numbers with the ID numbers of the junked cars they had bought.
Grabowski learned how to do all of this by surfing websites that provide technical assistance to locksmiths, and interestingly enough, buying any hardware he needed, on eBay:
You go online, you find anything you need," Grabowski told the investigators in the videotaped interview. "You can go on eBay at this point and purchase any of the equipment you need. Of course, I might pick this up easier than other people.From there, Grabowski got a business license, which he made on a computer "real quick" and lavished special attention on a female owner of a company licensed to provide locksmiths with the necessary code to clone keys.
Grabowski and crew have all been convicted, but their victims are still paying the price for their misdeeds. New Jersey State Investigator, Jeffrey Lorman was quoted in the article as saying:
The buyers were happy with the cars, they got a great deal. Then we found out about Dariusz and the stolen cars were recovered. Some of these people are still paying for cars they no longer have.The article mentioned that Grabowski was affiliated with a lot of other Polish nationals, involved in the business of stealing cars, also.
Our friend Dariusz, might or might not be the eBay king of stolen cars. If he is, he isn't alone, at least according to Google. A simple Google search reveals a large amount of information related to scams involving automobiles on eBay, here.
Fraud, Phishing and Financial Misdeeds a.k.a. (sometimes) FraudWar has a lot of information on auction fraud (if anyone is interested), here.
My advice is to be extremely cautious when buying a car on an auction site! If you choose to be cautious a good place to perform due diligence is CarBuyingTips.com, which can be seen, here.
The word is caveat emptor, latin for "buyer beware."
Star-Ledger article, here.