The indictment alleged that more than half of the stolen vehicles were no longer in Michigan.
According to the indictment, the defendants recruited others to:
- Steal and drive vehicles off the lot.
- Load about 46 of the vehicles on vehicle transports to be taken to other states.
- Buy the stolen vehicles.
Onorati was arraigned last week in U.S. District Court in Detroit and released on an unsecured bond. Porter is to be arraigned April 12.
If convicted of sale or possession of stolen motor vehicles, each defendant faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. If convicted of conspiracy, each faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“These indictments are the result of an exceptional collaborative investigation by the FBI’s Detroit Metropolitan Identity Theft Task Force and the Oakland County Sheriff Office’s Auto-Theft Unit,” Timothy Slater, FBI special agent in charge, said in a statement.
Attorneys for the two defendants could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for VW also declined to comment on the matter.
Volkswagen emissions scandal
VW pleaded guilty in March 2017 to felony counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and introducing imported merchandise by means of false statements for its emission-cheating devices.
As part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over its emissions violations, vehicles with VW’s 2.0-liter TDI diesel engines were repurchased from owners, removed from dealerships and stored at regional sites such as the Silverdome lot.
The city of Pontiac filed a lawsuit against the owners of the former Silverdome stadium for storing thousands of VW and Audi vehicles without proper permits after the automaker bought them back from customers.