BUSTED & Charged: Five accused of attempting to steal vehicles from Manheim Auto Auction

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RACINE (WITI) — Five people have been charged in connection with the attempted theft of vehicles from the Auto Auction in Racine, occurring on Tuesday, September 9th.

Those charged include:

  • 18-year-old Vernisha Ashby of Milwaukee (facing three charges of attempted felony theft of movable property, greater than $10,000, as party to a crime, two counts of criminal damage to property as party to a crime, and one count of possession of burglarious tools as party to a crime)
  • 17-year-old Devante Fells of Milwaukee (facing three charges of attempted felony theft of movable property, greater than $10,000, as party to a crime, two counts of criminal damage to property as party to a crime, two counts of felony bail jumping, and one count of possession of burglarious tools as party to a crime)
  • 19-year-old Lewis Hicks of Milwaukee (facing three counts of attempted felony theft of movable property, greater than $10,000, as party to a crime, two counts of criminal damage to property as party to a crime, and one count of possession of burglarious tools as party to a crime)
  • 37-year-old Trevion Sims of Milwaukee (facing three counts of attempted felony theft of movable property, greater than $10,000, as party to a crime, two counts of criminal damage to property as party to a crime, and one count of possession of burglarious tools as party to a crime)
  • 18-year-old Kjohnti Upshaw of Milwaukee (facing three counts of attempted felony theft of movable property, greater than $10,000, as party to a crime, two counts of criminal damage to property as party to a crime, and one count of possession of burglarious tools as party to a crime)

A criminal complaint filed against these individuals says Racine County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched on Tuesday, September 9th for a complaint of a suspicious vehicle — with the complainant saying individuals were attempting to cut the fence at the Manheim Auto Auction, before fleeing in a vehicle.

The complaint says deputies located the vehicle entering I-94 from the 7 Mile entrance ramp. Deputies in a fully marked squad car with lights and sirens activated observed the car swerving and cutting through traffic — before exiting at the 27th Street exit ramp.

The vehicle stopped, and deputies identified the vehicle’s driver as Ashby, according to the complaint. Sims was in the front seat. Fells was in the rear seat behind the driver. Hicks was in the middle rear seat, and Upshaw was in the rear seat behind the front passenger.

The complaint says deputies noticed the back seat passengers were sweating and breathing heavily.

The complaint says the vehicle’s occupants were removed from the vehicle — telling deputies they had attempted to go to 7 Mile Fair. Realizing it was closed, the parties told deputies they were headed back to Milwaukee.

Inside the vehicle’s trunk, the complaint says deputies found a set of bolt cutters. Inside the glove box, deputies found a digital scale that had green residue on it — smelling of THC.

The complaint says Hicks told deputies as they were driving past the Manheim Auto Auction, they were discussing how nice it would be to have one of the cars in the lot. That’s when Hicks said Fells and Upshaw got out of the car. Hicks said he was unclear as to where they went.

The complaint says Fells consented to a search of his person, which uncovered a set of keys for a 2014 Kia and a Cadillac. Fells told deputies he found the KIA keys, and said the Cadillac keys belonged to his parents.

At the Manheim Auto Auction, deputies found a six-foot hole cut into the chain-link fence — a black backpack and bolt cutters next to it.

The complaint says the owner of the business next door to the Auto Auction told deputies he had seen the suspect vehicle near the Auto Auction around 10:00 a.m. Tuesday — saying he observed four males get out of the car and take a look at the Auto Auction. The complaint says the business owner told deputies the vehicle returned around 3:30 p.m., and that’s when he observed one of the males cutting the fence — with another serving as a lookout.

The complaint says inside the fence, near where the hole was cut, deputies found a white 2014 Kia Cadenza parked with the engine running, but without the key. Deputies were able to match the key taken from Fells to this vehicle.

Deputies observed fresh damage to the front bumper of the vehicle, and the undercarriage.

The outer part of the lot has logs all around it, and deputies say it appeared as though a makeshift ramp was constructed in an attempt to remove the vehicles.

The complaint says deputies observed that the Kia Cadenza appeared to have gotten stuck, and it was then apparently pushed back.

The complaint says deputies found a Kia Optima with the keys in the ignition and running. That Kia was located two cars down from the Cadenza.

Deputies spoke with witnesses at the Auto Auction, who reported observing three black males attempting to build a ramp where the fence was cut. Security officials were notified.

Officials were able to interview each of the five individuals removed from the vehicle — and now charged. Each made a statement.

The complaint says Ashby implicated Fells as the leader, and the individual who apparently encouraged the others to steal cars from the Manheim Auto Auction. Ashby told officials she and Sims stayed in the car as the other three attempted to steal cars.

The complaint says Sims admitted to knowing what was going on — but said he stayed in the car with Ashby.

The complaint says Hicks told officials the plan was originated by Fells — saying that Fells, Upshaw, Sims and Hicks all went to the scene earlier to check out how they would commit the thefts. Hicks said he, Upshaw and Sims tried building a ramp to get the cars out, and that Fells tried driving the car out, but it got stuck — with him and Upshaw pushing it backwards. The complaint says Hicks told officials he got into the Kia Optima but he couldn’t get it out of its spot due to it being parked in by other cars.

The complaint says Upshaw told officials it was Fells’ plan to steal the cars — saying they went to Fells’ house to get the two sets of bolt cutters — eventually picking up Ashby and heading down to the Auto Auction. The complaint says Upshaw told officials he attempted to move a Range Rover but he was unable to get it out of its spot.

The complaint says Fells denied being near the scene, and had no explanation for the keys recovered from his person.

The complaint says the vehicles the group is accused of attempting to steal — the Cadenza, the Optima and the Range Rover each have an approximate value exceeding $10,000.

The complaint says Fells has two pending cases out of Milwaukee County — and was out on bond at the time of the alleged incident at the Auto Auction. Those pending cases accuse Fells of stealing vehicles from the Greater Milwaukee Auto Auction.

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