The leader of a Tijuana motorcycle gang pleaded guilty Tuesday to leading a sophisticated vehicle theft scheme that targeted Jeep Wranglers north of the border.
According to court documents, Jimmy “Motas” Josue Martinez and his gang, the Hooligans, are responsible for stealing more than 150 Jeep Wranglers within this county alone since 2014.
Martinez, 33, admitted that he and other gang members hacked security systems in the trucks and used secret codes and duplicate keys to take $4.5 million worth of Wranglers, some right out of the driveways of unsuspecting owners.
The jeeps were taken and transported south of the border to Tijuana where they were sold or stripped for valuables, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As part of his plea agreement, Martinez admitted to stealing Jeeps in Pacific Beach, Serra Mesa, Chula Vista, Mission Valley, Ocean Beach, Hillcrest and North Park. He also admitted to leading a theft crew of his own.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Martinez and other gang members obtained VIN numbers for Jeeps they wanted to steal, obtained codes pertaining to those trucks and made duplicate keys for them. Then, while stealing the Jeeps, crews would disable the security system and reprogram the duplicate keys to the truck’s computer.
Without the security system making any noise, crews were able to drive away without drawing any attention.
Last May, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced the arrests of three members of the gang and demonstrated how theft crews used the secret codes and duplicate keys to steal the Jeeps.
San Diego Police Department officers attempted to arrest Martinez in November of 2014, but he refused to pull over and instigated a pursuit. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Martinez drove at speeds faster than 120 mph on Interstate 805 toward the U.S.-Mexico border, and when he reached the port of entry, repeatedly rammed vehicles in front of him so he could make his way through into Mexico.
“The joy ride is over for Mr. Martinez,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “These thefts were audacious and sophisticated and created hassle and heartache for scores of Jeep owners. I congratulate prosecutors Andrew Galvin and Joseph S. Green, the FBI and members of the Regional Auto Theft Task Force for putting together a strong case against a gang that, unfortunately, has lived up to its name.”
Martinez and eight other Hooligan gang members were charged in May of 2017 in a Grand Jury indictment. Of the nine, six have pleaded guilty and three remain at large.
According to that complaint, the Hooligans used similar means to steal motorcycles in and around San Diego County and sell or strip them in Tijuana.
Martinez is scheduled to be sentenced on June 24.