And now they face 30 years in jail.
Meet Romane Porter and Daniel Onorati, both from the Detroit, Michigan area. They're likely about to go to jail for many years for car theft. But this was no ordinary case of grand theft auto. According to Automotive News, the pair hatched a plan to steal recalled Volkswagens and Audis as part of the automaker's Dieselgate fiasco and re-sell them to people who thought they were getting a good deal on premium German-built cars.
From March through September 2017, the two ran an operation where the vehicles were stolen from a lot located in the former Pontiac Silverdome where the Detroit Lions NFL team played for years. This location is one of 37 facilities across the US where VW literally dumped diesel-engined vehicles it bought back from angry owners.
The retired football stadium now serves as a storage location for these recalled vehicles. But Porter and Onarati couldn't resist the fact that there were lots of seemingly perfect VWs and Audis just parked there for an indefinite period of time. Chances are the vehicles will ultimately be crushed and sold for scrap.
Porter and Onorati recruited others to steal and drive the vehicles off the lot and bring them to a second location where they were stored prior to being sold.
It is unknown how much buyers paid, but the indictment also alleges more than half of the stolen vehicles are no longer in Michigan because they were loaded onto transports destined for other states. If convicted of the sale and possession of stolen vehicles, Porter and Onorati each face up to 10 years in prison. A conspiracy conviction also tacks on a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. That's potentially a combined 30 years in prison if convicted, plus the fine.
Both the FBI and the Oakland Country Sheriff Office's Auto-Theft Unit conducted the investigation. Volkswagen, not so surprisingly, had no comment.