BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The South Texas Auto Theft Task Force continues to make arrests through investigations that started in 2022 into an alleged auto theft ring that has stolen vehicles across the Rio Grande Valley, according to the Brownsville Police Department.

Through the investigations, police say, investigators have linked the group based on the tactics used to take the vehicles, as well as how they were transporting the stolen automobiles to Mexico, Investigator Martin Sandoval, spokesman for the Brownsville Police Department told ValleyCentral.

Detectives noticed many of the vehicles would be taken with working keys, alerted the task force that the auto thefts were coming from a sophisticated ring, Sandoval said.

“The thing that makes them sophisticated like any other theft ring or theft, we’re used to the people breaking windows, breaking your ignition and taking your car,” Sandoval told ValleyCentral. “Well, some of these guys, the big groups had keys that were not coded, and they would have a computer that would code these keys to a specific car — and that’s how they got into your car.”

In some of the thefts, the vehicles had a computer that were swapped out from the car that could be activated, allowing the car to be stolen, Sandoval said.

Police are currently monitoring heavily parked areas, such as malls, clubs and restaurants. Those areas are where authorities suspect the cars were most often being targeted, Sandoval indicated.

A timeline of arrests

September 2022: According to Brownsville Police Department, the auto thefts arrests started on Sept. 2, 2022, with the arrests of Jacob Guevara-Martinez and Marco Antonio Salas.

Martinez and Salas took a 2015 GMC Sierra from Sunrise Mall, police said. The men were arrested at Veterans Bridge when one of the men attempted to drive the vehicle to Mexico, police said.

Sept. 3, 2022: Police arrested Rogelio Rivera at the 700 block of International Boulevard, after he allegedly took a 2017 Chevrolet Silverado from Sunrise Mall and attempted to cross the vehicle to Mexico, according to the Brownsville Police Department.

Sept. 14, 2022: John Stephen Hollinger had allegedly stolena 2012 Volkswagen Routan from the 100 block of Old Port Isabel Road, according to police who said Hollinger was arrested Sept. 27, 2022, by Willacy County on an unrelated charge.

Oct. 24, 2022: Salas had stolen a 2015 Volkswagen Passat from the 4200 block of Southmost Road in Brownsville, police said. Salas was arrested, a second time, by Brownsville police Nov. 9, 2022, at the 800 block of N. Expressway 77 Frontage Road, Brownsville PD said.

Oct. 29, 2022: Jonathan Balderas, Jose Delgado and Roel Rubalcava allegedly stole a 2016 GMC Sierra from the Sunrise Mall parking lot, according to police, who said the trio also took a 2017 Ford Raptor and attempted to take a 2008 Chevrolet Trailblazer there on Oct. 30, 2022. The trio had allegedly stolen a 2016 and 2017 GMC Sierra from the 700 block of Springmart Oct. 31, 2022, police said. All three were arrested Nov. 1, 2022, in the Tenaza area of Brownsville.

Dec. 2, 2022: According to the Brownsville PD, Alejandro Villarreal allegedly stole a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette from 45 Sam Pearl Boulevard. He was later arrested at the Brownsville and Mexico Bridge due to a warrant, police said.

Dec. 28, 2022: Brownsville police arrested Javier Ortega, Eric Jay Rodriguez and Victor Pena Cardoza (also known as Miguel Pena), after they allegedly stole a 2015 GMC Sierra from the 2800 block of Pablo Kisel Boulevard. The trio was arrested at the 500 block of D Street, police said.

Jan. 4, 2022: The latest arrest on the auto theft ring occurred on Jan. 4, 2023, at the 900 block of Ruben M. Torres Boulevard, police said. Prince Julious Arnold and Cristian Garza allegedly stole a 2022 GMC Sierra from the McAllen area, and were later arrested in Brownsville after officers conducted a traffic stop on the Sierra.

These investigations remain ongoing, police said.