In February 2018, Detroit’s Big Three automakers began noticing something strange with many of the new vehicles shipped out of Southeast Michigan to dealerships: They were missing one of the two key fobs they’re delivered with. The Great Key Fob Caper of 2018, as we’re calling it, was on—and it would last a full six months and spawn numerous complaints and investigations by Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler before the key-fob disappearances suddenly came grinding to a panic-button stop, as reported by the Detroit Free Press.
As it turns out, the alleged perpetrator had been caught by authorities, who traced his whereabouts and identity from the fobs’ sales on eBay, subsequently searching his home. By the time he was caught and charged, Jason Gibbs, a local Dearborn resident who worked for a CSX-contracted company at a rail yard automakers use to ship new vehicles, is said to have lifted more than 1,900 key fobs from new vehicles—such as Ford F-150s—passing through CSX’s custodianship and had dumped them on eBay. This was, apparently, quite a lucrative side hustle for Gibbs, who is alleged to have made about $60,000.
The criminal activity also wasn’t covered up very well. While the stolen fobs were sold through an eBay account whose registered owner held no apparent ties to the CSX facility investigators linked to the missing keys, payments made for the stolen keys are reported to have gone to a PayPal account tied to Gibbs. According to Car and Driver, the Gibbs connection was easy for investigators to spot: The “scarpone21” username on the PayPal account matched Gibbs’ Instagram handle. Oh, and shipments of some of the fobs to eBay buyers bore a return address (an abandoned home) where Gibbs had previously resided, the report states.
Almost amusingly, it appears Gibbs wasn’t engaging in misdirection by using a proxy eBay account to move the stolen key fobs. The primary offending eBay account is said to have belonged to a friend, and he apparently used it because his own eBay account had been suspended six years prior for offering fake headphones for sale. There were other benefits to the apparently low-key nature of this crime. Namely, it is assumed no one on eBay realized the fobs were stolen and that all were purchased as replacements and reprogrammed for personal use; there are no reports of any of the keys being used to steal the brand-new cars or trucks they originated from.
This key true-crime story surfaced earlier this week when Mr. Gibbs was charged in federal court in Detroit with theft of goods from interstate shipments. (Remember, the cars were headed to dealerships beyond Michigan.) Need we remind you of the lesson here? Stealing is bad, and should you decide to take your criminal enterprise online, it’s likely you’ll be swiftly caught—and buried with a mountain of electronic evidence.