FORCE Team arrests six in auto theft ring with help of Troy police

By: Sarah Wright | Troy Times | Published May 17, 2024


The state’s Focused Organized Retail Crime Enforcement Team has arrested six members of a crew suspected of stealing over 400 vehicles in southeast Michigan.  

The alleged criminal ring targets new vehicle storage lots at manufacturing facilities, as well as car dealerships, parking lots and individual residences. State Attorney General Dana Nessel said the operation is alleged to have operated in over 40 jurisdictions in Oakland, Washtenaw, Macomb and Wayne counties, with other instances occurring in Eaton and Kent counties. 

The stolen vehicles are worth approximately $8 million, though the Nessel’s department said the stolen vehicles are sold below market value on the black market to buyers seeking unregistered vehicles. 

The stolen vehicles have been linked to armed robberies, weapons offenses, felony evasion of police, car-jackings, murder and attempted murder, according to Nessel. 

The group is suspected of using countersurveillance to steal vehicles quickly and efficiently, allegedly shooting at officers and ramming security vehicles if confronted.   

“The activities of criminal organizations like these go far beyond theft,” Nessel said in a press release. “They cause millions in financial losses to our retail partners, sow fear, and endanger lives. Vehicles stolen as part of this criminal enterprise go on to become tools in violence, posing additional threats to public safety. I commend the hard work of the FORCE Team, Troy Police Department, and other local law enforcement agencies to investigate and dismantle this operation.”  

The Troy Police Department has been investigating this crime ring since August of last year and partnered with the FORCE Team in early 2024 to bring down this expansive criminal organization, officials said. 

Other agencies involved include police agencies in Auburn Hills, Canton, Dearborn, Detroit, Eastpointe, Farmington Hills, Lansing, Livonia, Novi, Roseville, Royal Oak, Sterling Heights, Southfield, Walled Lake and Warren, as well as the Oakland County Auto Theft Group and the Macomb County Auto Theft Unit. 

“I am extremely proud of the work that has been done by my staff and all of the participating agencies to arrest and prosecute these violent and reckless criminals,” Troy Police Chief Frank Nastasi said in a press release. “Auto theft has been a significant crime trend in our region that has impacted both the residents and many community stakeholders. In addition to the economic impact of auto theft, the violent and reckless manner in which these individuals operated put all of us in danger. I deeply appreciate the work of each of the officers on the frontline yesterday morning as they stepped up to protect the residents of the State of Michigan. I also thank the State Attorney General’s Office for their guidance and resources during this complex investigation.” 

Currently, the Troy Police Department has reported a rough estimate of around 40 vehicles stolen in 2024, with some of them related to the activity of the car theft ring.

“Officers in our Special Investigations Unit, which includes Officers from Troy, Bloomfield Township, Royal Oak, Auburn Hills, and Birmingham, have worked tirelessly to identify and gather evidence on several of those who are most responsible for this dangerous crime trend,” Troy Officer Benjamin L. Hancock said in email. “As they progressed through the case it was evident that the cooperation of local, state, and federal law enforcement partners would be crucial for a successful enforcement outcome.”

The Troy police and over 200 officers from more than a dozen other state, federal and local law enforcement agencies executed eight arrest warrants against southeast Michigan men May 15. Six are in custody, and officers have recovered seven stolen vehicles, hundreds of car parts linked to stolen vehicles, a large quantity of electronic key fobs, stolen dealership license plates, burglary tools — including some devices specifically for stealing cars — thousands in cash, and a significant volume of additional evidence, including nine guns.  

“Policing relies on teamwork,” Col. James F. Grady II, the director of the Michigan State Police, said in a press release. “We depend on each other to effectively serve the public. This case is an excellent example of that collaboration. Yesterday’s operation will make an immediate positive impact on public safety as we continue to build a Michigan where everyone feels safe and secure.” 

Each defendant has been charged with conducting a criminal enterprise and the use of a computer to commit a crime, both 20-year felonies, along with other charges:

- Kevin Lamont Stevenson Jr., 21, of Detroit, has been additionally charged with nine counts of receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle. 

- Joseph David Doyle, 25, of Onsted, has been additionally charged with six counts of receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle. 

- Braylen Jeese Green, 20, of Wixom, has been additionally charged with nine counts of receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle. 

- Dejhon Trevon Bush, 20, of Detroit, has been additionally charged with seven counts of receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle. 

- Zamarr Terrell Johnson, 18, of Troy, has been additionally charged with 12 counts of receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle, and two counts of fourth-degree fleeing or eluding. 

- Desmond Maurice Wilson, 21, of Detroit, has been additionally charged with nine counts of receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle, and one count of breaking and entering with intent. 

Police are working to locate and arrest two additional suspects.

“In my tenure of 30-plus years, I have never seen such bold and brazen thefts from new car auto dealerships,” Rod Alberts, the co-executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, said in a press release. “This has become an epidemic of organized criminals preying on businesses in our communities and putting law enforcement and the general public in harm’s way, not just during the theft itself, but on the streets after they have stolen the vehicles. I want to thank the Attorney General and her staff for the steps and actions they have taken. It will make a difference.”  

The investigation is ongoing, and the officials are working to establish cases against other members of the auto theft ring, as well as the buyers of the stolen vehicles. Each of the six defendants is presently jailed at various locations throughout Oakland and Macomb counties. No dates have yet been set by the court for subsequent proceedings, and attorneys for the suspects could not be reached by press time.