Drone suspected in Normandy luxury car-jacking ring

Normandy drone luxury cars

French police believe three men accused of stealing well over a half-million dollars worth of luxury cars used a drone to find their targets in several posh towns along France’s Normandy coast. The only hitch in the case is the UAV has flown the coop.

A unit of France’s national gendarmerie in Normandy this week announced the mid-December arrests of the three suspects, ahead of their court hearing on January 14. The accused – described as “very unfavorably known” to legal authorities – were apprehended after several months of investigations focused on locals thought to be using a drone to identify luxury cars they’d then steal during the night. Police say a total of 24 vehicles worth more than $678,000 were boosted and resold to an organized crime ring in the Norman city of Rouen.

Though officials believe their inquiry and evidence found in raids have produced a slam-dunk case for prosecutors, they remain perplexed about the suspected drone – which was nowhere to be found when they made their bust. Crooks using UAVs to identify and case properties for burglaries and other thefts have previously been nabbed by cops in spots along France’s Riviera. The Normandy gendarmes were quickly convinced their band of luxury car thieves had adopted the same approach.

“We established that part of it from the very start, but we can’t prove it because we haven’t uncovered the drone,” a police official told AFP. 

Despite the absence of that significant detail, investigators told Le Parisien the trio are still “suspected of having used a drone for selecting some of the properties” where luxury cars vanished. The spree began last summer, and was limited to several swank Normandy towns like Deauville, Trouville, and Honfleur.

“The operational mode was always the same,” said the gendarmerie’s communique. “(The perpetrators) came at night, in some cases while the owners were present, to steal the keys of high-end luxury cars. Their primary target was powerful German cars, notably the Audi brand.”

Investigators rapidly picked up the odd detail that the thieves only took car keys from houses they entered while owners slept – passing up a lot of fancy loot they could have also easily pocketed. Meanwhile, with many of those properties featuring tall walls and hedges to shut prying eyes out, cops decided the crooks had to be using drones to get an aerial angle to hunt for their prey. In the end, the suspects were nabbed for the same reason most are – attempting the one crime too many.

Their busts last month allowed investigators to put an end to the lucrative car boosting scheme, with convictions of all three suspects considered virtually certain. The only regret they have in the affair: failing to crack the Case of the Missing Drone.

Photo: Olivier Legrand

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