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Suspect in million-dollar car-theft ring has been arrested and charged

February 11, 2011 |  7:10 am

One of the suspected ringleaders of a million-dollar Southern California car-theft operation was arrested this week in South Gate, authorities said.

Martin Vasquez, 43, of San Pedro was arrested at about 9 p.m. Tuesday night at a local coffee shop, authorities said.

Vasquez used phony DMV documents and stolen driver’s license numbers to clear the titles of 24 stolen vehicles so they could be sold at auction or to individuals, according to the state Attorney General’s office. The estimated value of the stolen vehicles was $1.2 million, prosecutors said.

Vasquez and two other men named in a complaint filed last week by the state Department of Justice are in custody on multiple counts of theft and conspiracy. Vasquez is being held at L.A. County Jail on $355,000 bail.

Vasquez’ accomplices include Luis Marroquin, 64, of Huntington Park and Kirsio Cruz, 46, of Norco. Marroquin and Cruz were arrested Feb. 3 after an investigation by the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Marroquin is being held at L.A. County Jail  on $700,000 bail. Cruz was released Friday after posting $150,000 bail.

Vasquez and Marroquin ran a smoke shop and a fraudulent registration service, Latinos Smog in Boyle Heights, according to court documents. They used fraudulent driver's licenses, Social Security cards, notary stamps and CHP and DMV rubber stamps to “wash,” or release, vehicles of their lien holders.

Using the stolen information, the two put innocent citizens at risk of further identity theft and credit penalties, authorities said.

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