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Four charge in alleged auto theft ring

LILBURN -- What started as a few car break-ins in Lilburn last summer has morphed into a larger crime pattern involving forged vehicle identification numbers.

The Gwinnett police auto theft unit has charged four people in connection with stolen vehicles and series of forged VINs, police said Friday.

The investigation initiated from several entering auto reports on Aug. 8 in the 4400 bock of Aberdeen Road near Lilburn, said Gwinnett police Cpl. Edwin Ritter.

About 3 a.m., several vehicles were broken into in that area. The suspects came back later and stole a 2002 Lincoln Blackwood, a truck, with two jet skis on a trailer hitched to it.

Two days later, Gwinnett officers located the stolen jet skis with a Ford F-250 at Lake Lanier and charged Atlanta resident Nathaniel Johnson, 24, with theft by receiving.

The truck had been stolen from Tifton, with the VIN altered to reflect one on another F-250 legally registered in Alaska. Johnson was released on bond before officers discovered the truck was stolen, Ritter said.

Officers soon learned that Snellville police were also investigating an incident where a stolen Cadillac Escalade was sold by Johnson and his sister, 27-year-old Tina Johnson, of Atlanta.

The pair sold the vehicle to a car broker who police have identified as Craig Davis, 35, of Covington.

"This vehicle also had an altered VIN on it similar to the Ford F-250," Ritter said.

Davis paid only $20,000 for the Cadillac -- less than half market value -- and ignored several red flags that the car was stolen, Ritter said. Like the Johnsons, he's charged with theft by receiving motor vehicle and possession of a motor vehicle with an altered VIN.

All three remain at large.

Stone Mountain resident Kempton Greaves, 18, has been arrested on charges he stole the Lincoln truck with the jet skis, Ritter said. The investigation continues.

The Lincoln Blackwood, jet skis, trailer, Cadillac Escalade and Ford F-250 have all been recovered.