According to the Department of Justice, two Michigan men have been charged with conspiring to steal automobiles and the sale or possession of stolen automobiles. Daniel Onorati, 41, of Eastpointe, has already been arraigned and released on bail, while Romane Porter, 42, of Farmington Hills, will go before the court on April 12. The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Oakland County Sheriff's Office Auto Theft Unit.
The vehicles in question are tied to a much larger scandal nicknamed Dieselgate. Heard of it? After the Volkswagen automotive group was found to be using emissions-cheating devices on some of its diesel vehicles, VW bought the affected vehicles back and was forced to store them en masse around the country. One of those dumps was the Silverdome parking lot, where thousands of Audis and VWs sat unattended.
Police believe these two men saw this as an opportunity to take the cars for themselves. According to the indictment, the thefts took place between March and September 2017. Once the cars were moved from the parking lot, they were reportedly stored or sold, with approximately 46 of the cars loaded onto transports and ending up out of state. One car even made it out of the country.
If convicted of selling or having stolen cars, each man could face a maximum of 10 years in jail. If convicted of conspiring to steal the vehicles, each faces a potential sentence of five years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine. Right now, of course, both defendants are considered innocent.