Thieves of Bentley, Lamborghini don't go far

Police recover a Lamborghini reported stolen in Mt. Airy.
Police recover a Lamborghini reported stolen in Mt. Airy. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 25, 2013

Suppose a couple of big-dreaming thieves boosted a flaming yellow Lamborghini and a spit-polished black Bentley from an underground garage at an apartment complex on the edge of Mount Airy.

What to do next?

Apparently, not very much.

The market for stolen ultra-luxe wheels is extremely limited.

And even with some long-shot resale plan in mind, there was almost no chance of getting away unnoticed.

In this modest, tree-lined neighborhood, the streets are fairly deserted at night. There might not be many witnesses. Maybe a guy in a bathrobe and slippers taking his goldendoodle out for an emergency walk. Or a bartender coming home from work.

But anyone who lays eyes on a Bentley cruising by is bound to wonder if Mark Wahlberg has taken a wrong turn. And pity the reprobate in the stolen Italian sports car, tooling around in that bold manifestation of testosterone.

"They're pretty conspicuous," said Chief Inspector Scott Small of the Philadelphia police.

Very early Tuesday, Small said, a 24-year-old man who lives in an apartment complex near Wissahickon Avenue and School House Lane called to report his Bentley and Lamborghini - both 2006 vintage - stolen.

When Small went to the scene to interview the man, he was surprised that someone so young, living in a second-floor apartment, would own such expensive cars. And not only the two that were stolen, but, according to the man, two more - a Lexus and one other.

"But it's not my place to interrogate him," Small said. "You're definitely allowed to own four cars. . . . It's not my place to say, 'Yo! Why do you have four cars?' He is the victim of the crime here."

The cars were found by early morning, parked less than a couple of miles from where they had been taken.

Little wonder, says Justin Berkowitz, East Coast bureau chief for Car and Driver.

"It's actually pretty difficult to steal a late-model car and sell it whole," Berkowitz said. "Even if you take it to a sleazy trade-in lot, they have to register it," he said, and the vehicle identification numbers are easily tracked by computer networks.

Most cars are sold for parts, he said. "That is the core of the business of stolen cars."

The difference with a Lamborghini and a Bentley is that it is like trying to sell fine art. Not only are they rare, but extremely expensive.

Last year, only 2,315 Bentleys and 480 Lamborghinis were sold in the United States, said Berkowitz. Back in 2006, the numbers were not much different - 3,856 Bentleys and 704 Lamborghinis. Since then, both companies have been bought by Volkswagen. Still, they have lost none of their cachet.

The cars were worth at least $200,000 new. And although they depreciate quickly, the 2006 models still sell for between $70,000 and $100,000.

So anyone who can afford to buy one - even used - is not likely to be looking for bargains on maintenance.

"There is not a huge market for chop-shop Lamborghini parts," said Berkowitz. "The people who need them repaired can afford to pay full price."

When he learned about the stolen cars in Philadelphia, he said, he suspected the thieves were taking a joyride. His theory is based in part on the fact that they had also stolen a wide-screen television.

"There is a small market for high-end cars like this. They are shipped overseas right away, sometimes in a container to South America. There," said Berkowitz, "the fact that the VIN is stolen, no one will know."

But a thief who has bothered to take a $1,500 TV, he said, "probably is not well-wired into the black-market community."

As of late Tuesday, Northwest Detectives had no suspects and were continuing to investigate the theft of the stolen cars.


Contact Melissa Dribben at 215-854-2590 or mdribben@phillynews.com or @dribbenonphilly.

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