Pierce County arraignments started today after a six-month undercover investigation that ended Tuesday with 21 people in custody and 26 stolen cars recovered, including one owned by a soldier who was deployed.
Detectives from several agencies bought stolen property from suspects as part of the Auto Crimes Enforcement Task Force, an operation they called “Shiny Penny,” according to Lakewood police.
The investigation involved auto theft, firearms violations, residential burglary and fraud across Washington state, including Pierce County, police said.
Officers identified 26 suspects during the investigation and recovered 16 firearms, among other stolen property.
SWAT teams served warrants Tuesday at five residences and several vehicles in Pierce and Thurston counties.
Court records show at least six of the suspects arrested pleaded not guilty today to various counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property, unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of a stolen firearm, among other charges.
According to court documents:
The task force set up a storefront operation last summer on 30th Street in Tacoma, where undercover officers bought stolen property. Having obtained a court order, they recorded the conversations.
Stolen property came from Tacoma, Lakewood, Seattle and elsewhere in King County. Police said that besides the cars, 11 items such as TVs and computers were recovered during the investigation.
Among items recovered was a vehicle that belonged to a soldier deployed to Afghanistan. Police are investigating whether the car was stolen twice. Some of the vehicles were stolen from rental agencies.
Officials plan to return stolen property to victims March 6.
The investigation turned up four narcotics violations, according to police, but the circumstances of those crimes were not clear Wednesday.
Among the agencies involved in the operation were Lakewood, Tacoma, Puyallup and Fife police, along with the Pierce County sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices.
Also taking part were the Washington State Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority.