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Police say the arrest of a woman may help crack a massive auto theft ring responsible for stealing dozens of cars in the last few weeks, and ultimately responsible for thousands of car thefts around the metro area.
On Thursday morning, Arapahoe county deputies arrested Sallena Nichols for aggravated auto theft. Authorities say she and another heavy-set black woman would walk into auto dealerships and purchase high-end cars using fictitious names and phony credit information.Authorities believe the cars then would be taken to a chop shop, which is where vehicles are dismantled for parts.The cars are driven right off the lot in plain view, and car dealerships don't know they've been ripped off until it's too late."Everything lined up, so we did the paperwork, sold them a car," said Joe Oltmann, owner of Millenium Autosport. "It was like they had rehearsed it over and over again."Oltmann didn't realize that the Mercedes Benz they drove off with hadn't been paid for until the credit union called three days later. That's when law enforcement agents got involved and Oltmann started doing his own detective work."I basically scared her into giving me information and the more information she fed me, the closer I got," Oltman said. "She told me about the chop shop at 6th and Airport, she told me how they buy cars and why they buy cars ... They get paid for how many cars they bring in there ... She told me who was the ringleader, how they are getting the information to use the identity, and that there are police officers involved."On Wednesday night, Arapahoe county deputies found Oltmann's stolen Mercedes Benz outside of the auto body shop in Aurora.It's the same location the Nichols had told him about and when he showed up.The car dealership owner said he believes the driver of his stolen Mercedes hit somebody while he or she was behind the wheel because there's damage to the front bumper, the hood, and the windshield as well as visible signs of blood.Detectives on the case say this could end up being a massive state-wide auto theft ring involving more than one chop shop and it's possible that the recovered Mercedes Benz might solve another crime.
Sallena Nichols was arrested for investigation of aggravated auto theft.