GREENFIELD — Arrest warrants have been issued for two men believed to be behind one of the most organized car theft rings local prosecutors say they have ever encountered.
Indiana State Police officers believe two men have been traveling across central Indiana, using forged Bureau of Motor Vehicle paperwork to make copies of ignition keys at car dealerships and then using those keys to commit numerous car thefts across the Indianapolis area, court documents state.
Police said the men have made 55 duplicate keys based on stolen vehicle identification numbers, and at least 32 of those keys were obtained at a dealership in McCordsville, court documents show.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Demetrius Hankerson, 19, of Indianapolis, and Dorian Parker, 23, of New Haven.
Parker faces 28 counts of forgery, 14 counts of conspiracy to commit auto theft and one count of corrupt business influence.
Hankerson faces four counts of forgery, three counts of conspiracy to commit auto theft and one count of corrupt business influence.
Police began investigating the pair after a vehicle was stolen off the lot of a Hancock County dealership.
Officers were notified that a duplicate key had been made for the vehicle prior to the theft. Employees at the dealership said a teenager came to the dealership seeking a new key for a vehicle he claimed to have purchased at an auction, court documents said.
Car dealership are able to cut ignition keys based on the vehicle identification number provided by the car’s registered owner. Individuals must provide proof of identification and ownership for a dealership to create a duplicate key.
Each time the teen, identified by police as Hankerson, visited the McCordsville dealership, he provided what appeared to be BMV paperwork that listed him as the owner of the vehicle in question, police said.
After police informed the dealership of the investigation, dealership employees suggested police look into Parker as well. Parker often visited the McCordsville dealership, asking for keys to be made, court documents state.
Police found the two men made similar requests to at least nine car dealerships in the Indianapolis area, each time providing a vehicle identification number and BMV paperwork. However, the BMV paperwork showed identical taxes and fees regardless of the make, model or year of the car, court documents show.
At least 18 cars associated with information Parker and Hankerson provided to dealerships were stolen from neighborhoods across central Indiana between November and April, said Marie Castetter, Hancock County chief deputy prosecutor.
Often, these thefts occurred within days of the duplicate keys being made, she said.
“It’s pretty scary,” Castetter said. “These people would go to bed at night, wake up in the morning, and their car will have been stolen. But the owners were confused because there were no (signs of) damage, and the keys are still in their house.”
At least one stolen car was recovered in Fortville, Castetter said.
Investigators are looking into how the pair might have gotten their hands on so many vehicle identification numbers. Castetter said she would not be surprised if further investigations found more people were involved.
Parker faces 42 Level 6 felony charges, and Hankerson faces seven Level 6 felony charges for forgery and conspiracy to commit auto theft. Each charge carries a penalty of six months to 2½ years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.