– A gang of pizza-munching, Honda-loving car thieves who cut a swath through the East Bay was sniffed out by police after they left a sloppy trail of clues inside the stolen vehicles. The ring of nine teenagers, all from Oakland, allegedly stole at least 26 Honda Accords in Oakland and in BART stations throughout Contra Costa County and burglarized dozens more over the past two months, until alert investigators noticed a pattern.
The thieves would drive the cars around for a couple of days while munching pizza, strip the vehicles of anything valuable, and then abandon them with boxes inside and half-eaten pizza slices on the seats.
“All the pizza boxes had the name of the establishment on them, but none of them had the tag that comes with a pizza when you buy it,” said BART police Sergeant Mike Miller. “Speculation was it was probably someone working in a pizza shop.”
The hunch was right. Investigators with the BART and Oakland police departments followed the trail to its source – an Oakland pizza parlor with a 17-year-old suspected car thief working the counter.
It was a key factor in the eventual arrest of eight other suspects, all 16 and 17 years old, between September 25 and October4. They were all booked on charges of auto theft.
The pizza boxes weren’t the only clue. BART investigators and Oakland police also found a scrap of paper with a name on it inside a school book left in one of the cars. Detectives tracked the name to Skyline High School in Oakland, where they noticed a stolen Honda Accord sitting in the parking lot.
A 16-year-old boy eventually hopped in the car – and into the hands of police. He had purchased a Club device to protect the car from theft.
– Peter Fimrite, Chronicle East Bay Bureau.
– The following is a direct quote from the Center for Strategic and International Studies report on GLOBAL ORGANIZED CRIME; the author who introduces the story swears it’s true.
FBI agents conducted a raid of a psychiatric hospital in San Diego that was under investigation for medical insurance fraud. After hours of reviewing thousands of medical records, the dozens of agents had worked up quite an appetite. The agent in charge of the investigation called a nearby pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues.
The following telephone conversation took place and was recorded by the FBI because they were taping all conversations at the hospital.
Agent: Hello. I would like to order 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of soda.
Pizza Man: And where would you like them delivered?
Agent: We’re over at the psychiatric hospital.
Pizza Man: The psychiatric hospital?
Agent: That’s right. I’m an FBI agent.
Pizza Man: You’re an FBI agent?
Agent: That’s correct. Just about everybody here is.
Pizza Man: And you’re at the psychiatric hospital?
Agent: That’s correct. And make sure you don’t go through the front doors. We have them locked. You will have to go around to the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas.
Pizza Man: And you say you’re all FBI agents?
Agent: That’s right. How soon can you have them here?
Pizza Man: And everyone at the psychiatric hospital is an FBI agent?
Agent: That’s right. We’ve been here all day and we’re starving.
Pizza Man: How are you going to pay for all of this?
Agent: I have my checkbook right here.
Pizza Man: And you’re all FBI agents?
Agent: That’s right. Everyone here is an FBI agent. Can you remember to bring the pizzas and sodas to the service entrance in the rear? We have the front doors locked.
Pizza Man: I don’t think so.