Four people have been arrested in Leeds as part of an operation to smash a “sophisticated” £2m car cloning ring.
Police believe around 180 stolen vehicles have been sold to unsuspecting buyers in the last seven years by a gang using specialist equipment to break into and then adapt cars.
A 46-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman were arrested at an address in Alwoodley, a 32-year-old man was arrested in Yeadon and a 39-year-old man was arrested in Adel.
Two other men, aged 37 and 44, were arrested in Bradford and Bournemouth respectively in raids by West Yorkshire Police and the National Crime Agency.
An Aston Martin Vantage, worth £38,000, and an Audi Q7, worth £16,000, were among the vehicles seized.
Detective Superintendent Pat Twiggs, head of crime for Leeds, said: “This investigation has been targeting what is clearly a highly sophisticated car cloning ring that has been operating across the country on a large scale for a number of years.
“Lengthy and painstaking enquiries culminated in the arrest phase of the operation earlier this week, during which we seized a number of vehicles, equipment and other evidence which will be of value to the investigation.”
The Aston Martin was among four cars seized in the Bournemouth raid along with a specialist lock picking kit.
The Audi and a Vauxhall Vectra were recovered from an address in Yeadon and vehicle documents and number plates were seized from another Yeadon address.
A search of an industrial unit in Pudsey led to the recovery of a vehicle diagnostics machine used in the reprogramming of vehicles, a large number of number plates and a blank firing pistol.
Det Supt Twiggs added: “The operation is focused on vehicles being stolen, primarily in the south of England, without keys using specialist equipment and then transported to Leeds where they are professionally cloned using the identities of legitimate vehicles and sold to innocent buyers through used car publications and websites.
“We believe the value of this criminal enterprise to be in the region of £2m.
All those arrested have been interviewed and bailed pending further enquiries.