Stolen Car Ring Busted

By: Mike McKnight & Brian Mastre Email
By: Mike McKnight & Brian Mastre Email

Douglas County Sheriff's Deputies busted up a stolen car ring. One car had been stolen in the county -- six others in Omaha.

After a week of surveillance, sheriff's deputies made their move Wednesday night.

Four stolen vehicles have been recovered. Two women and a man face several felony charges for possession of stolen property. They are identified as 25-year old Melaney McFarland, 41-year old Christine Vanderlinden and 25-year old Richard McIntyre.

It all started with Matt Therkelsen. He left his garage door open and keys in the car near 152nd & Mary. “I was waiting to see if we needed to pick up anybody and heard a big bang on the side of the door. We ran outside and saw the car was gone.”

His Buick was found the next day at 57th & R. The thieves smashed into a fence after getting stuck in the snow on February 13.

Neighbors videotaped the crash but didn't know the extent of what they saw until later. Deputies tracked the car because the suspect gave the neighbor the real car owner's insurance to fix the fence.

The thieves weren't far away. "Police said they were locking and unlocking the doors while they were there," said Matt Therkelsen, "So they had to be close."

Neighbors like Chris were paying attention to the whole scene. "They were parking everywhere in the neighborhood and walking to their house. They weren't parking in front of their house."

For a week undercover investigators watched seven stolen vehicles come and go. Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Gentile says, “They were opportunists that are looking for transportation to do their other illegal activities. So they look for vehicles that are running or have keys in them. They're calling it 'Yahtzee' -- where they go out looking for vehicles with the keys in it and hitting the jackpot. We got a car running let's take it."

Wednesday night, they arrested the two women at the home. McIntyre got away in a stolen truck which he crashed. He was caught when he returned to the same house a short time later.

Investigators have linked the three suspects to seven stolen cars.

Four have been recovered, like Laura Marr's PT Cruiser. "It was a fairly new car and I thought I'd never see it again."

Channel 6 News also talked with the family of the stolen pickup truck that crashed and the family of a stolen Honda. Both may be fortunate to get their vehicles back. Both cars were stolen just 5-8 blocks from the suspects' home.

Investigators say they crew mostly stole cars that had the keys in them and then drove them until another car came along.

Some of the cars on the inside looked as though people were living in them.

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