DPS: 22 arrested, $2 million in stolen vehicles seized in joint investigation

PHOENIX - Over $2 million worth of stolen vehicles have been seized during undercover investigations in Arizona and New Mexico.

DPS on Friday announced that officials executed 12 search warrants in Albuquerque on Thursday, with the assistance of Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force agents to help gather evidence for the Arizona-based investigation.

DPS said two investigations were running at the same time because officials were tracking criminal organizations in different states.

The investigations were called “Operation VIN-a-Palooza” and “Operation Interstate GM.” The investigations began in the Fall 2013.

“Operation VIN-a-Palooza” took place in New Mexico. DPS said 27-year-old Jose Alonso-Espinoza’s group allegedly stole new model GM vehicles and switched their vehicle identification numbers.

“Operation Interstate GM” was operated in Arizona. The AVTTF was responsible for tracking actions of the Arizona-based criminal organization. DPS said the organization received the stolen GM vehicles from the New Mexico organization and sold them in Arizona.

During both investigations, 39 stolen vehicles were recovered, 22 arrests were made and weapons and drugs were found. Two of the suspects reportedly worked for a third-party motor vehicle office.

Albuquerque police, Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force, Department of Homeland Security Investigations and DPS all worked together to complete the investigation.

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