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July 9, 2013 > Auto repair scam suspect arrested

Auto repair scam suspect arrested

Submitted By San Leandro PD

Over the past several months, several owners of Toyota and Scion vehicles that have been shopping in the Washington Plaza in downtown San Leandro have returned to their vehicles, finding them with broken transmissions. In each instance, the vehicles would not shift out of park, and in fact, were not broken.

In each case, the victims had been approached by a middle-Eastern male in his 50's, wearing a mechanic's jumpsuit, offering to repair their cars, eliminating necessary tow and repair fees. These victims have agreed, and have paid the male up to $75 each time. The repair has been simple - the installation of one bolt in the transmission, which the suspect mechanic has had with him.

Several months ago, Officer Brian Buss, the Department's Bicycle Officer assigned to patrol the Washington Plaza and downtown business district received information about this and believed it to be some type of a scam. Since February, he has diligently been looking for a man matching the suspect's description, hoping to prevent further crime and damage to people's vehicles.

On Wednesday, July 3rd at 10:25 a.m., Officer Buss spotted a 54 year old, unemployed, Fremont man, matching the suspect's description, loitering in the parking lot near the CVS store at the Washington Plaza. Officer Buss contacted him, finding that he was on probation for drug and alcohol-related offenses. Officer Buss located a 12mm socket wrench and a matching bolt in the man's pocket. The man was taken into custody for public intoxication.

Officer Buss believed this to be the same man that had been scamming others in the parking lot, and believed that the bolt found in his pocket belonged to one of the many Toyota vehicles parked in the lot. For over two hours, he waited for a tow truck to arrive, hoping to find a vehicle with an allegedly broken transmission. Finally, the tow truck arrived, stopping behind a Toyota Camry. Officer Buss spoke with the vehicle's owner, and learned that the Toyota's transmission was stuck in "park," just like the others. Officer Buss and the tow truck driver inspected the car and discovered that the bolt found in the suspect's pocket matched the missing bolt removed from the vehicle's transmission. The tow truck driver reinstalled the bolt which fixed the car, preventing it from having to be towed to a repair facility.

Lieutenant Robert McManus commented, "This is a perfect example of how officers and rely on information from our community to solve crime. Without this partnership and Officer Buss' persistence, the owner of the Toyota would have been forced to pay costly towing and repair fees."

Lieutenant McManus explained that the man's name and photograph are not being released at this time, as detectives will be conducting further investigation. Investigators hope to identify other victims from San Leandro and surrounding communities that have been victimized in a similar manner. Please contact the San Leandro Police Department at (510) 577-2740, if you have been victimized or have any information that may assist investigators.

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