Four men from Florida were arrested on conspiracy theft charges this week in Anne Arundel County after a tip from a victim in Laurel led police to a hotel in Bowie — where evidence was uncovered that linked the men to thefts in multiple other states as well, Anne Arundel County Police said Thursday.
Detectives in the county said the men appear to have been targeting vehicles parked at daycare centers and gyms. They are now reaching out to law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions as they try to determine how widespread the operation was, said Justin Mulcahy, a department spokesman.
"Who knows how large it is, at this point," Mulcahy said. "They are opportunistic individuals."
About 8:17 a.m. on Tuesday, county police officers responded to a KinderCare in the 3500 block of Russett Common in Laurel for a report of a theft from a vehicle, and there interviewed a victim who said she was in the backseat of her car when a man opened the driver's door and began rummaging through her center console, police said.
When she made her presence known, the man ran to a waiting vehicle, which drove off, police said. But before it did, the woman was able to note the license plate number, which she shared with police, police said.
Police matched the number to a rental car from another state, and broadcast the information to law enforcement agencies across the region. Shortly after, officers with the Bowie Police Department located the car in the parking lot of a Bowie hotel.
County detectives responded to the location and watched several people exit the car. Four men in their 20s, all from Fort Lauderdale, were subsequently arrested, police said.
Police also executed a search warrant on two hotel rooms and the vehicle they had observed the suspects exiting. Property recovered linked the group to multiple thefts from vehicles in Virginia and Missouri, police said.
Detectives are continuing to investigate whether the group is tied to other car thefts in Anne Arundel as well, Mulcahy said.
The man who allegedly entered the woman's car in Laurel was identified as Leonard Wright, 23, police said. He has been charged with attempted theft and being a rogue and vagabond.
The other men, all charged with being rogues and vagabonds and with conspiracy to commit theft, are Chadrick Owens, 22; Kenneth Hall, 24; and Gerald Lee, 29, police said.
The investigation is ongoing, police said.