2 arrested in massive auto theft operation across Houston area

By Lea Wilson - Digital News Editor , Anoushah Rasta - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Two men were arrested July 29 and charged for stealing more than 100 Jeep and Dodge vehicles from the Houston-area, according to the Houston Police Department's Auto Theft Division.

At a press conference Thursday, police said Jessie Zelaya, 22, and Michael Arce, 24, used pirated software on a laptop to hack into Jeep Wranglers, Cherokees and Dodge pickup trucks' computer systems, start the ignitions, and steal the vehicles. 

According to HPD, in one instance, a homeowner's surveillance cameras caught what appeared to be either Zelaya or Arce walking up to a vehicle with a laptop, breaking in, starting it, and driving off.

HPD said officers searched the men’s apartments and found drugs, stolen weapons, keys, a laptop, body armor, and other tools they believe were used to steal vehicles.

Investigators are trying to figure out exactly how the men may have used computer software and if anyone else is involved in the scheme. More arrest and charges are possible.

Arce is charged with a felon in possession of of a weapon, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. 

Zelaya is charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2