Police arrested Angel Ortiz on Thursday for allegedly stealing about 45 spare tires from the backs of cars in Chandler, Mesa, and Gilbert.
Ortiz, 39, is accused of driving to shopping centers and parking lots with a tire iron, police say, looking for cars with a mounted spare on the exterior. Police say his favorite vehicles to purloin tires from were the Jeep Liberty, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V.
"I don't know for sure, but he's somehow turning the tires around for cash," says Chandler police detective Seth Tyler. "Maybe he's selling the rims to a metal recycler. This isn't a really common thing thing we see."
There's no talk of Ortiz being the kingpin of tire-theft empire yet, but Tyler believes Ortiz has been loosening lug nuts and fleeing with spares since February. He says detectives are certain he's responsible for the tri-city tire thefts because they all had a similar M.O. -- targeting spares without lug locks.
Chandler Police Department's Auto Theft Unit nabbed Ortiz after a victim jotted his license plate down after Ortiz allegedly tried to make off with his tire, Tyler says.
Police charged Ortiz with two counts of trafficking in stolen property and one count of theft.