Two Arrested in South Gate Vehicle Theft Scheme

teenager under arrest

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SOUTH GATE (CNS) - Two men have been arrested for allegedly stealing vehicles from at least 15 people in South Gate -- sometimes at gunpoint -- after luring them to business parking lots, and detectives Thursday urged other possible victims to contact authorities.

Arnulfo Lira and Jose Parga, both of Bell Gardens, were arrested in January, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Capt. Martin Rodriguez said at a news conference Thursday morning at the South Gate Police Department.

Detectives from the sheriff's Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Prevention -- TRAP -- conducted an investigation in partnership with South Gate police personnel, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the suspects operated from business parking lots in South Gate, mostly Walmart, but also Petco, and La Curacao.

Most of the victims were Spanish-speaking, and were targeted using Facebook, Rodriguez said.

"The two suspects ... stole their vehicles by using fraud, false pretenses, and force, which means they produced firearms and carjacked some of the victims," Rodriguez said.

Sometimes the victims were told by the suspects that they would be paid cash for taking merchandise in their vehicle to the Fresno area, Rodriguez said. Some victims were even persuaded to rent a vehicle for that purpose, Rodriguez said.

However, once at the business parking lot, the vehicle would be taken from the victims, Rodriguez said, adding that no injuries have been reported.

Investigators believe most of the stolen vehicles were taken to Mexico, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez urged other possible victims to contact TRAP detectives at 800-299-8727, or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.

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