Move over, jewelry thieves: The car dealership inside job

In these troubling economic times... (a friend of mine says that's the new phrase to use, so I'm going with it) jewelry-store heists are so the last Depression. Uh-huh. In the big economic muddle, 21st century version, the thing to do is make off with the thing that really has a "street" value: cars. And what better way to do it than an inside job?

Long the subject of stereotyping and derision for their heartlessness and tendency to do anything for a buck, auto dealership managers and salespeople have nonetheless historically been entrusted with very expensive inventory. Perhaps it's the hierarchical, trust-avoidant structure of your typical dealership, but until now, there were no legends of outlaw car dealership management making off with truckloads of cars worth millions.

Until now.

In Scottsbluff, Nebraska, dealership owner Allen Patch, controller Rachel Fait and general manager Rick Covello skipped town, along with 81 Fords and Toyotas worth more than $2 million. They were caught in Utah on Thursday, and will be charged.

What was the heist? When employees showed up at the Legacy Auto Sales dealership on Tuesday morning, they found the three executives' desks cleaned out and the lot mostly empty. Two dozen of the cars were sold at auction in Salt Lake City; another six were found at the airport in Scottsbluff. Evidently, the dealership was having some financial troubles.

I have to admit that something about this (alleged) crime thrills me. Its audacity, I suppose. It belongs on a movie screen (perhaps a double feature with The Thomas Crown Affair?). One can only imagine the logistics required to move 81 cars in a weekend, let alone sell them before the authorities catch on.

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