There is a whole world out there for black market key fobs, as there probably is for pretty much everything. This week, the feds said that nearly 2,000 key fobs had been stolen over a six-month period from new cars at a railyard outside of Detroit and later sold for over $60,000. A Detroit man has been charged in the alleged scheme.
From the Detroit Free Press:
Jason Gibbs, 41, was charged Monday in federal court in Detroit with theft of goods from interstate shipments. He could not be reached for comment, and no attorney is listed for him.
The investigation launched after a subsidiary of CSX Transportation began getting complaints from Ford, GM and FCA about missing key fobs. Instead of showing up at dealerships with two key fobs, they were arriving with only one. All of the vehicles with missing key fobs, which included the popular Ford F-150, had come through the same facility, according to an affidavit from a postal inspector filed with the criminal complaint
The key fobs were being sold to be reprogrammed for use on other vehicles, according to the affidavit, which said more than $60,000 was paid to a PayPal account — “scarpone21" — linked to Gibbs. Ford had its own investigators looking into the thefts as well, and even made payments to the “scarpone21" account for key fobs that had been mailed through the New Boston Post Office and had a return address in Detroit at a vacant house, where Gibbs had lived previously, the affidavit said.
The affidavit itself, filed Monday in federal court, makes for fascinating reading, and not just about the alleged crime itself, but also the details about how new cars are packaged and shipped, and the picture it paints of the key fob black market. The affidavit was written by a postal inspector, and CSX Police were also involved in the investigation.
Here is how the postal inspector describes the shipping procedures at the site where the alleged crime occurred:
New cars assembled in Michigan and nearby states are transported by tractor-trailer car carriers (car carriers) to the New Boston facility. Each car is unlocked, and inside of each car are 2 key fobs, typically zip tied together. Key fobs are used by the porters at the New Boston facility to drive cars off of the car carriers and park them in the large parking lot at the New Boston facility. Within a day or two, the porters use the key fobs to drive the cars from the parking lot onto autoracks. An autorack is a specialized railroad freight car used to transport cars.
(Autoracks are either bilevel (two decks) or trilevel (three decks).) Once a car is driven onto an autorack, its two key fobs are left inside of the car, which remains unlocked. When an autorack is full, it is sealed. Autoracks then become a part of a CSX freight train. The destinations of these CSX freight trains are all located outside of Michigan.
And here’s how the investigation first began to unfold:
JASON GIBBS was employed by a contractor of CSX/TDSI called Auto Warehousing Company (AWC), and he worked at the New Boston facility. He held the position of utility porter, and his responsibilities included repairs of vehicles such as battery repair, flat tires, minor body repair and movement of vehicles within the facility.
10. In February 2018, CSX/TDSI received complaints from Ford, Chrysler, and GM about missing key fobs. New cars would arrive at car dealerships with only one key fob. Through customer claims and an internal audit it was discovered all vehicles missing keys had originated at the New Boston facility, not having been transferred with any other railroad prior to destination, with all trains arriving sealed.
11. A CSX/TDSI manager (D. Ayers) found someone selling key fobs on eBay like the ones that were reported missing. The key fobs were being sold through an eBay account called i_love_12volts. That eBay account was assigned to someone by the name of Kerry Reyna of Trenton, Michigan. Reyna was not employed at the New Boston facility.
Turns out Ford itself also had an investigation going.
12. On March 14, 2018, agents had a conference call with investigators with the Ford Global Brand Protection Group. Postal Inspector Christopher Bradshaw and CSX PD agents informed Ford investigators that they had a person of interest in connection with the missing key fobs, Kerry Reyna, who was selling key fobs on eBay. Ford investigators related that they had a concurrent investigation regarding Kerry Reyna, prior to CSX involvement, and had previously purchased 3 key fobs from i_love_12volts. The parcel containing the key fobs was mailed on February 6, 2018, from the New Boston, Michigan, post office to the Ford investigators.
13. Ford investigators were able to connect the 3 key fobs they purchased from i_love_12volts to the following three cars: Ford F-150 VIN: 1FTFW1RG2JFB81342, arrived at New Boston on 01/25/18 and left on 01/26/18
Ford F-150 VIN: 1FTFW1RG3JFB80054, arrived at New Boston on 01/26/18 and left on 01/27/18
Ford F-150 VIN: 1FTFW1RG7JFB79120, arrived in New Boston on 01/26/18 and left on 01/27/18
Agents were then able, through internal audit, to determine that these three Ford F150s were shipped though the New Boston facility, and each arrived at its destination with one key fob missing.
A few days after that the investigation picked up.
16. On March 21, 2018, Postal Inspector Christopher Bradshaw determined, using postal databases, that postage for the parcel containing the 3 key fobs mailed to Ford investigators was paid for on February 6, 2018, with a debit card in the name of JASON GIBBS. As previously stated, the 3 key fobs were mailed to the Ford investigators from the New Boston Post Office on February 6, 2018.
17. Ford investigators related that their payment to i_love_12volts for the 3 key fobs was made to PayPal account @scarpone21. An open source search of @scarpone21 as listed on the PayPal receipt was associated with JASON GIBBS’ Instagram account.
After which investigators spoke to Gibbs.
18. On May 22, 2018, CSX PD agents and Postal Inspectors executed a search warrant at the residence of JASON GIBBS, 3452 Monroe Street, Dearborn, Michigan. GIBBS agreed to be interviewed and stated
Ɣ that 3452 Monroe Street was his primary residence and that he had owned the property since October 2017;
Ɣ that he and Kerry Reyna grew up together and were “best friends,” having attended middle school and high school together;
Ɣ that he grew up at 7400 Mansfield, Detroit, with his mother, father, and three siblings;
Ɣ that he was currently employed by Auto Warehousing Company as a “utility” employee at the New Boston facility and had been so employed for about 4 years; that his responsibilities included such tasks as repairing flat tires and jumping dead batteries; and that as a part of his job, he also “lined up” vehicles by driving them into assigned parking rows to later be placed onto trains by assigned and trained Auto Warehousing Company porters; Case 2:20-mj-30226-DUTY ECF No. 1 filed 07/06/20 PageID.8 Page 8 of 11 -8-
Ɣ that he used the following social media applications with the following account names: Craig’s List (scarpone21@ yahoo.com), eBay (scarpone21), PayPal (scarpone21), Facebook (Jason Gibbs), and Instagram (scarpone21);
Ɣ that his eBay account was suspended approximately 6 years ago due to a complaint of selling fake headphones, and that for that reason, he used Kerry Reyna’s eBay account (i_love_12volts). Reyna knew that GIBBS was using his eBay account.
One buyer in California apparently bought a lot of the fobs.
19. Records obtained from eBay relating to the i_love_12volts account show that between December 15, 2017, and February 17, 2018, there were 43 sales transactions in the i_love_12volts account involving key fobs. A total of 52 key fobs were sold by i_love_12volts to various individuals, who paid i_love_12volts a total of $3,965. These payments were made to the scarpone21 account at PayPal, which was assigned to JASON GIBBS.
20. Records obtained from PayPal relating to the scarpone21 account show that between January 27, 2018, and May 16, 2018, there were 22 sales transactions involving key fobs. There appeared to be just one purchaser, an individual in Foothill Ranch, California (the California buyer). Gibbs told agents that he sold these key fobs following phone conversations with the California buyer. PayPal records show that a total of 1,862 key fobs were sold to the California buyer, who paid a total of $56,605 to the scarpone21 account at PayPal.
21. In sum, eBay and PayPal records establish that between December 15, 2017, and May 16, 2018, a total of 1,914 key fobs were sold through the i_love_12volts account at eBay or following phone conversations between GIBBS and the California buyer count. Payments for the key fobs, which totaled $60,570, were made to the scarpone21 account at PayPal. All 1,914 key fobs were associated with cars that were shipped through the New Boston facility and loaded onto autoracks, which became a part of CSX freight trains. The destinations of these CSX freight trains were all located outside of Michigan.
23. eBay and PayPal records show that the California buyer would sell the key fobs he purchased from Gibbs to other members of the public. These sales would be online. The price for a key fob ranged anywhere from $69 to $160. It is believed that the end users would use the key fobs attempt to reprogram them so they could be used on other cars.
The affidavit ends by saying that Gibbs stopped working at the facility on May 27, 2018, or five days after his interview with investigators and that automakers did not report any missing key fobs after the day of the interview. There is no lawyer listed for Gibbs in federal courts database.
You can read the whole complaint below.