Social media leads police, owners to stolen Dodge Charger 500

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Thanks to social media, this 1969 Dodge Charger 500 is back with its owners. | Michael Laiserin photo
Thanks to social media, this 1969 Dodge Charger 500 is back with its owners. | Michael Laiserin photo

A rare 1969 Dodge Charger 500 — one of 559 homologated NASCAR superspeedway specials — was stolen from a Phoenix business but, thanks to the power of social media, the car was recovered and a husband-and-wife duo arrested within 48 hours of its disappearance.

The brazen theft occurred in the early hours of Sunday, September 16th at Michael Laiserin’s business, Michael’s Collision in north Phoenix. The valuable Mopar was in a locked trailer within the shop’s yard. Video surveillance showed the alleged thieves were on site for about an hour. After hacking away at the yard gate, they violently dragged the trailer onto the street, broke into it and drove the Charger off in a cloud of tire smoke.

The chaotic crime scene was discovered a few hours later by Laiserin’s wife, Melissa, who phoned him while he was attending the Silver State Classic Challenge road race near the Nevada border.

“I’ve owned that car since 2005, restoring it from a basket case to a No. 1 condition show car,” Michael Laiserin said. “I thought that it was already in a shipping container, headed overseas somewhere.”

To say the Charger 500 needed work when Michael Laiserin first found it would be an understatement. | Michael Laiserin photo
To say the Charger 500 needed work when Michael Laiserin first found it would be an understatement. | Michael Laiserin

Michael Laiserin immediately posted pictures of his beloved Charger to Facebook, where it was shared about 3,000 times, including to a Northern Arizona Swip-Swap barter board.

That’s where Ashley Bigwood saw it. The mother of four happened to be driving past the ironically-named RoadRunner Restaurant and Saloon in New River, Arizona around 3 p.m. the Monday after the theft when she saw a dark green car that looked familiar.

Bigwood — who is not a car aficionado by any means — pulled and found Michael Laiserin’s post. She called the police and posted to Facebook that she believed she had spotted the missing Charger.

The Charger 500's paint job, including the iconic white rear stripe, made it fairly easy to spot. | Michael Laiserin
The Charger 500’s paint job, including the iconic white rear stripe, made it fairly easy to spot. | Michael Laiserin

By then, two suspects — a male and a female — had climbed into the Charger and another truck pulling a travel trailer and drove away. With her kids in the backseat, Bigwood stayed on the phone with police and followed the two vehicles to a Walmart parking lot in Anthem, about 6 miles away.

“My kids kept saying ‘Mom, this is better than television!’” Bigwood said. “I’ve taught my kids to always do the right thing if they think something isn’t right.”

Meanwhile, Melissa Laiserin read the Facebook post about the car being spotted in New River and relayed the news to her husband, who was hurriedly driving home from Nevada. He called local police, who told him they were investigating a sighting in Anthem.

Michael Laiserin pulled into the Walmart parking lot to see three police cruisers surrounding his Charger, along with the stolen truck which had allegedly been used in the robbery.

Police were called to a Walmart parking lot where officers found the car and arrested the suspects. | Michael Laiserin
Police were called to a Walmart parking lot where officers found the car and arrested the suspects. | Michael Laiserin

“When I saw the truck that was in our surveillance video, I stormed it,” he said. “The police nearly tackled me to restrain me.”

Two arrests were made in the theft — husband and wife Geoffrey Lawrence Shea and his wife, Margarita Shea. In addition to theft charges, they face multiple drug and firearm possession charges. Margarita Shea had was released on bond just five days prior to her arrest for similar charges.

Geoffrey Lawrence Shea (left) and Margarita Shea were charged in the theft. | Mugshot.com photos
Geoffrey Lawrence Shea (left) and Margarita Shea were charged in the theft. | Mugshot.com photos

The Charger is now back with Michael Laiserin and he planned to fix the damage.

“I’ll probably need to do a full rotisserie restoration to the bottom of the car to return it to concours condition.”

Michael Laiserin credited the keen-eye and awareness of Bigwood, whom he was able to thank in person at the Walmart.

“She’s a hero,” he said, adding that social media played a key role in the car’s recovery. “There are a lot of good and bad things about social media, but there is no way I would have gotten that car back without it.”

Fittingly, he announced the good news on Facebook: “Car Recovered—Scumbags Arrested!!”

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William Hall is a writer, classic car broker and collector based in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He has spent the whole of his professional career in the automotive industry, starting as an auto-parts delivery driver at the age of 16 to working for some of the nation's premier restoration shops. He is a concours judge and a consultant to LeMay-America's Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

10 COMMENTS

  1. It’s nice to see that people like Ashley to get involved in the right way and the car is home with its "Rightful" owner. Good Job Ashley !!!!!!

  2. It is a great story. I would have been heartbroken if it had been my car, but I’d had never sold it in the first place. I could never afford a car like that but if I owned it I’d never leave it go. It’d be my ultimate ride for life. Like they say, Mopar or Nocar.

    • … and the MOPAR or NOCAR saying almost came true! Great ending to this story! I assume the crooks tore it up some during their getaway?

    • This is a landmark story. The people who saw the car weren’t "car people" but had seen the car on Facebook. They were willing to put themselves out BUT not get too closely involved and risk personal threat. They had secondary contact with family and outsiders who knew what they were doing. And all worked out. Not all these elements will work in every case.

      And might I suggest LoJack, OnStar or some other passive vehicle locating device might have made everyone’s job here easier? It’s an afterthought, but if you have a collector vehice you’d better give it some thought after this….or just let the meth heads have your car.

  3. I know how you feel, had my wife’s 70 Road Runner stolen in 2006, a week b/4 spring fling, it was stolen out of my shop also, got it back at spring fling when it showed up there, caught the guys red handed with it in the swap meet area.

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