Like something out of the movie “Oceans Eleven,” a team of what Tyler police called professional thieves was behind a historic strike on Wagner Cadillac, making off with more than $60,000 worth of tires and wheels from 20 vehicles.
The thieves struck the dealership, 4100 S. Broadway Ave., sometime late Saturday or early Sunday and left behind a surreal scene of vehicles on blocks in what Tyler police called the biggest theft in city history.
“We have never seen a theft of this magnitude in Tyler, but this is quite common around the state and country,” Tyler Police Detective Gary King said Monday.
King, assigned to the East Texas Auto Theft Task Force, gathered information Monday from the dealership in hopes to recover the property, but the wheels and tires, some valued at more than $1,000 per wheel, likely already were moved to a larger city.
“We had a similar theft at a couple of dealerships in Mineola last year, but we caught that person and put them in jail,” King said. “They were only doing two or three cars at a time - nothing like this.”
The theft team likely had visited the dealership before and knew the security weaknesses, he said.
“This was not some weekend thieves, but was a coordinated and well-organized group,” he said. “They either used a large rental truck or some type of box trailer to haul all of these tires and wheels away.
“Something this big, they had probably been to the lot and checked it out once or twice. You don’t just come onto a lot and do something this big blindly.”
Cue the “Mission Impossible” music.
Wagner representatives said the burglars cut the fence for easier access and took out parking lot lighting, which helped conceal their presence.
Scott Jordan, Wagner managing partner, said this was the first big theft at the dealership since his group bought it in 2009.
Jordan said the thieves cut the gate to the entrance and parked in between the body shop and service area out of sight of any passersby on Broadway.
Jordan said the thieves then cut the lighting and a fence panel where the new cars were parked.
When it came to the tires, Jordan, said the tires and wheels were not only stolen but some of the cars acrually fell off the blocks they had been left on damaging the rotars and possibly the axles and a panel on the bottom the vehicles.
“We will replace everything with new parts, but with the damage to the cars and the lot, the wheels and tires, we are probably looking at losses between $80,000 and $100,000,” he said.
Jordan said he learned that Reliable Chevrolet in Dallas was hit last week and the blocking used to leave the cars on looked similar.
Jordan added the dealership has cameras in the business but none on the lot.
“We have cameras at some of our other locations and we’ve had some burglaries and never got a good look at the person. We might get glimpse of them, but when its dark and they have a hat on you don’t see much,” he said.
King said the team could have used cordless impact wrenches to remove the wheels quickly with little noise.
“These impact wrenches are very powerful and would be easier to use than something requiring an air compressor,” he said.
King recommended that car dealers revisit their security procedures and install surveillance video if they don’t already have it.