GARY — Police have secured felony charges against a 37-year-old man following a 10-month-long investigation into his alleged activities of stealing and selling vehicles in Northwest Indiana.
Lake County Sheriff's Police have so far recovered more than $50,000 in stolen vehicles, car parts and trailers as part of the department's investigation into Miles Beach, of Gary.
Beach was charged in Lake Criminal Court on Thursday with corrupt business influence, synthetic identity deception, two counts of auto theft, three counts of theft and one count of dealing in altered property, court records show.
Beach garnered the special interest of Lake County detectives and "quickly became the primary suspect in the case" after several victims and witnesses were interviewed, a Lake County sheriff's spokesman said in a news release.
In March, Lake County Detective Michael Powers found a 2006 BMW covered with camouflage tarp near an abandoned home in the 1000 block of East 35th Court in Gary, the affidavit states. The vehicle had been reported stolen out of Gary in November 2015.
A Ford F-250 was located nearby with flat tires, a broken windshield and all four doors missing, and the vehicle identification number had been removed, the affidavit states.
Powers said a check of confidential VINs in the computer uncovered that the actual VIN was now registered to a vehicle owned by a couple in North Judson.
Powers then discovered that the North Judson couple had purchased a Ford truck from a "James Jones" on Facebook for $2,200, the affidavit stated.
The Ford was reported stolen in November 2016 off the Napleton Hyundai lot in Calumet City, Illinois, police said.
The North Judson couple told Powers they had not realized the vehicle had been "re-tagged," and that they would not have purchased the car if they had known it was stolen, court records show.
Upon looking at photos associated with the "James Jones" Facebook account, Powers said he "immediately knew" the person to actually be Beach, whom had been under investigation for selling a re-tagged vehicle earlier in the year.
Photos of a Tow Master car-hauling trailer reported stolen in October 2016 and a Ford F-350 reported stolen in August 2016 out of Orland Park, Illinois, also appeared on the James Jones Facebook account, according to the affidavit.
The trailer was owned by Ivy Tech Community College and reported stolen by a maintenance employee, and Beach allegedly drove off in the Ford F-350 after selling the North Judson couple the stolen Ford F-250, court records show.
In April, the F-350 was recovered in the 4200 block of Madison Street in Gary, where Beach's girlfriend lives, police said.
That same month, a Lake County police officer initiated a traffic stop on Beach in a white pickup truck with a tow dolly trailer near 61st Avenue and Interstate 65. He was stopped for unsafe lane movement and a child restraint violation, court records show.
An inspection of the tow dolly trailer revealed that some of the characters on the VIN sticker were missing. A confidential VIN number found on the trailer revealed it was stolen from Home Depot sometime after March 8.
An arrest warrant was issued for Beach's arrest on Monday.