A man suspected of stealing motorhomes in West Michigan and other places around the country has been indicted on multiple charges.
The Grand Rapids Press reported that Walter J. Nunley is facing charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., transportation of stolen vehicles, transportation of stolen goods and making false statements to a federal agent, the indictment said.
Another man linked to Nunley, Ronald Bruce Myers, is serving 41 months in federal prison after being convicted in Arizona of sale or possession of a motorhome stolen in North Carolina, court records show.
For more than a year, police in the Grand Rapids area and elsewhere have been investigating what they called an “organized theft ring” that stole motorhomes from dealerships, and fraudulently obtained documents for the vehicles. The motorhomes were hot-wired and stolen from lots in the Grand Rapids area, including Holland, Kentwood and Wyoming, police said.
Police obtained surveillance images from a Holland-area store where the suspected thieves visited before they stole a vehicle from Holland Motor Homes & Bus Co.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael MacDonald filed a 31-page indictment that detailed the thefts of motorhomes across the country, document fraud and sales of stolen motorhomes.
He said that Nunley, whose hometown is not in court records, made at least $512,000 as part of the scheme.
The conspirators removed and changed vehicle identification numbers, obtained false state government paperwork, and used false identification documents in possessing, transporting and selling the stolen motorhomes, the government said.
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Police say that the thieves stealing luxury motorhomes from West Michigan RV dealers are smart, skilled and, so far, successful, according to a report by WZZM TV, Grand Rapids.
“We believe they were done by the same group and they knew exactly what they were doing,” says Grand Rapids Police Sgt. Stanley Lis of the Combined Auto Theft Team.
In the past few weeks, three motorcoaches have been reported stolen. The first was taken from Holland Motor Homes and Bus Company on East 16th Street on March 28. Two more motorhomes were taken Tuesday (May 8) from Midway RV Center on South Division in Kentwood.
“We were all kind of in shock,” says Midway Sales Manager Dave Ballast. “You kind of go from shock to disappointment to anger. You are not sure what to feel.”
Police say the motorcoach thefts are something they haven’t seen happen locally in years.
“I’ve been doing auto thefts here for 16 years and this is the first group of these type of vehicles that I’ve ever seen stolen,” says Sgt. Lis.
Investigators have identified two suspects in the thefts based on surveillance photos taken from stores near the scene of the Holland theft in March.
Detectives say the thieves are targeting similar motorcoaches.
“They’re all remarkably similar in color, size, shape. and very valuable,” says Sgt. Lis. “Very valuable. The asking price when these were new was in the high $300,000′s. The value of them currently, they are a couple years old, is like $150,000 each. So we’re looking for almost a half a million dollars of motorhomes stolen.”
Police believe the thieves are experienced and from outside the West Michigan area.
“In my opinion it’s some type of organized theft ring coming into our area,” says Lis.
“They knew what they were doing,” says Ballast. “There were no signs of forced entry, no broken glass. Somehow they got in and were able to hot wire the things and drive away.”