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Two men thought to have stolen more than 100 Fiat Chrysler cars using a laptop have been jailed in Houston, Texas.

Michael Arce, 24, and Jesse Zelaya, 22, targeted Jeep and Dodge models that, by all accounts, are valuable currency on the black market in Mexico. The pair used a laptop linked to a database of security codes available to dealers and independent repairers to reprogram the car’s security systems to a different key fob.

Investigations began in May when CCTV footage emerged of a Jeep Wrangler being stolen in downtown Houston (below) by a man using a laptop in an apparent effort to circumvent the security systems.


Though leads in that case ran dry, investigators were later altered to similar cases by Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. That information identified Arce and Zelaya, both of whom have criminal records, as suspects.

The pair were arrested after police concentrated their efforts on an area of Houston that had previously seen a number of auto thefts. Arce and Zelaya were caught in a stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee. Officers found electronic devices in the car, along with keys and other equipment thought to have been used in the thefts. Firearms, drugs and body armour were also found.

The case inevitably raises questions about the ability of cars to withstand cyber attacks like this. A Fiat Chrysler spokesman told the Detroit Free Press: “We’re looking at every and all solutions to make sure our customers can safely and without thinking park their vehicles.”

Arce is being held in jail and is set to appear in court on August 26, charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, felony possession of a weapon, and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Zelaya will appear in court on August 10, charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Source: Detroit Free Press


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