Bloomfield Twp police arrest three wanted for 25 car thefts, hundreds more property thefts

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 13, 2023


Police have arrested three men they believe are responsible for hundreds of thefts across metro Detroit, including 25 stolen cars. 

Raphael Smith, 29; Demerius Hollis, 30; and Samuel Bender Jr., 32, are all charged with car theft, larceny, burglary, illegal use of a credit card and stealing a gun. All three men are also being charged with conducting a criminal enterprise by the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.

Township police said months of investigative work confirmed that the three men were involved in an ongoing crime spree from October 2022 to January 2023.

“The case began back in October, when we started to see an influx of larcenies from auto, as well as car thefts — a majority of them being unlocked vehicles with personal belongings inside, or unlocked vehicles with the key fobs left inside,” said Bloomfield Township Police Officer Nick Soley. “We started to see a trend throughout all of southeast Michigan, especially Oakland County.”

Township police said the case was “complex” and enlisted the help of the Troy Special Investigations Unit — which includes officers from the Auburn Hills, Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Royal Oak and Troy police departments. 

“They started working the case hard for about six months,” Solely explained. “There was a lot of surveillance and investigative techniques I can’t really get into, but they were able to piece it all together.”

Township officers also worked with the Canton, Livonia and Sterling Heights police departments, and the Michigan State Police.

Detectives first identified Bender as a suspect responsible for using a stolen credit card at a local gas station, police said. Surveillance video then led them to Smith and Hollis, who were caught on video in several stolen vehicles, police said. 

“They were not particular about the type of car stolen. They would take what they could,” Soley said. “A lot of these were crimes of opportunity. They were definitely looking for vehicles and belongings to steal. The opportunity came when the cars were unlocked and key fobs were left inside.” 

On Dec. 29, officers conducted multiple search warrants at two residences in Detroit, where Smith and Hollis were arrested. During the searches, detectives recovered “a large amount of stolen property” and “seven stolen handguns.” 

Bender was arrested by the Bloomfield Township Police Department Jan. 19 “after committing several more crimes,” Soley said. 

At press time, Smith and Hollis were both being held in Oakland County 6th Circuit Court on $1 million bonds, while Bender was charged in 48th District Court and was being held on a $300,000 bond. 

Hollis’s attorney, Ben M. Gonek, could not be reached for comment at press time. Smith’s attorney, Mohammed Azeem Nasser, had no comment at press time. Bender’s attorney, Marshall S. Tauber, could not be reached for comment at press time. 

Although the suspects were taken into custody, Soley said metro Detroit police agencies are still seeing an influx in auto thefts and larcenies from vheicles. 

“Since then, we have had at least one stolen car in Bloomfield, so different crews and different individuals are still out there. They are still looking. They know they can find these cars that are unlocked with personal belongings and key fobs in them, and they’re taking them.”

Police remind residents to lock their cars, remove all valuables — including the key fob — and never leave a firearm in their vehicle.

“It’s the same thing I’ve been stressing the last eight years of my career: Lock your cars, take all your personal belongings out and never leave a key fob inside,” Soley said.