An Azle, Texas, car salesman with 45 years of experience says he knows better than to let someone test drive a vehicle alone. But that is what Neal Brister did when a young man walked onto his Fort Worth-area car lot earlier this month and asked to test drive a Chevrolet pickup truck.
“He was gone about 35 minutes, which is long enough to make a key for it,” Neal Brister recently told WFAA News.
After the man returned the truck, Brister suspected something might be up. He checked his lot later in the afternoon and noticed the truck was gone.
He suspected right away that the man who took the extended test drive earlier in the day might be the culprit.
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The next day Brister’s wife found the truck listed on Craigslist.
Brister said he and his wife monitored the ad through the week and took note as the ad changed. The original posting listed the truck as its original red, but that was later modified to list the truck as having been spray painted black.
Brister and his wife contacted the seller through Craigslist and the phone number they were given matched that of the number given to them by the man who last drove the truck.
They arranged a meeting in a nearby mall parking lot to purchase the truck and then notified police.
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Police from Azle and Fort Worth met 21-year-old Isaac Smith in the lot and immediately arrested him on charges of felony theft.
Azle Police Chief Rick Pippins told WFAA that Smith had black spray paint on his hands at the time of the arrest.
"Lucky for law enforcement, sometimes people make it not-too-terribly difficult to detect their crimes," Pippins said.
The same could be said for a suspected car thief in Austin, Texas, who just last month was arrested for a similar scam.
Travis County deputies charged Alfonzo Hensley with felony theft after connecting him to a suspected stolen truck.
"We didn't waste any time. We just jumped out on it and caught a suspect with the truck. He had the key and a key fob in his pocket and [we] arrested him," said Sgt. Chris Roland.
Roland said he suspected Henley, and possibly a few accomplices, were running a virtual car lot for stolen cars on Craigslist. Police later said they had evidence connecting Henley to at least six other alleged thefts.
"They're stealing them and then within a matter of hours they're creating a key, even a key fob for the alarm, they're not changing license plates or anything and they're putting them on Craigslist and selling it within a couple hours,” Roland told KTBC News.
Luckily for Brister he didn’t fall victim to such a complex scheme. Instead, he just laughed at the more recent incident and said he was a victim of his own mistake.
"I didn't go with him, like an idiot," Brister told WFAA. "But anyway, it's just one of those things. I made a mistake, he took advantage of it.”