WEST MIAMI (CBSMiami) – New surveillance tape obtained by CBS4 shows what West Miami’s Police Chief says is an alarming problem in South Florida: thieves targetting high-end cars for their expensive tire rims.

“We’re looking at some really brazen guys,” said West Miami Police Chief Nelson Andreu. “This is going on countywide, cars getting hit and they are usually high-end Mercedes, BMWs, where they can get hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars for their rims,” said Andreu in an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.

“We’re working with the city, county and Coral Gables Police in areas where they are getting hit really hard and we are trying to get these burglars off the street,” said Andreu.

Click here to watch Peter D’Oench’s report.

The surveillance tape captures two young men using special tools to loosen the lug nuts on Milton Corzo’s Mercedes Benz around 2:30 on the morning of Tuesday, August 19th.

“Well I think it’s really a shame to have these people around in West Miami,” said Corzo. “They’re loosening all the nuts and bolts and even took the locks off the wheels. Well I feel like a victim. Here it is the fifth time I have been aimed at, twice with my Mercedes Benz, once with my boat and twice with another vehicle.”

As seen in the tape, the two men spend nearly ten minutes with his Mercedes, loosening the lug nuts on all four rims. But before they can steal the rims, the suspect’s lookout spots a patrolling West Miami Police car. All three men take off. Less than 10 seconds later, the tape captures the patrol car driving by.

“It takes some nerve for these guys to sit there,” said Andreu. “It’s not like they were just going to grab an item. They had to work at this for some time. Fortunately an officer drove by before they were able to commit the crime. We’re trying to prevent this from happening. We are on the lookout for people breaking into cars or looking for cars whose doors are left unlocked. In this case the video captures these people hard at work
trying to steal the rims.”

The officer in the patrolling West Miami Police car stopped the three suspects and took their names. Two days later, because of that and what Andreu called “good police work,” two men were arrested: 23-year-old Raul Cedeno and 21-year-old Walter Beltran.

Detectives say Cedeno had been arrested before for possessing marijuana and cocaine.

Both men are charged with petit theft, possession of burglary tools, loitering and prowling and criminal mischief over $1,000 because of the stolen lug nuts and damage to Corzo’s Mercedes.

Anreu said that damage occurred when Corzo’s unsuspecting wife tried to drive the car the same morning that the lug nuts were stolen. As she put the car in reverse, the tires were damaged when they broke loose because they had no lug nuts securing them.

That’s when Corzo checked his surveillance tape and discovered the crime.

“We definitely need to catch these guys for sure,” said Corzo. “And we need everyone in West Miami to be vigilant and be on the lookout and have neighborhood programs in place. But this was terrible. My daughter goes to college and she is terrified. She’s terrified and scared when she leaves at six in the morning because she is worried people might mug her outside in our driveway.”

“There’s not much more that this victim could have done,” said Andreu. “He had locks on the tires, cameras. The only other thing is to put your car in your garage.”

Andreu said there just a vague description of the accomplice.

He also urges other people to call their police departments if they have been victimized.

Anyone with information that can help is urged to call Detective Yero at the West Miami Police Department at (305) 266-0530 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).


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Peter D'Oench