Police say suspects drove to pageants featuring men dressed like women

A band of cross-dressers has been stealing cars from dealerships around Alabama to drive throughout the Southeast to competitions for men who parade on stage in women's clothing, police said.

They don't send the cars to chop shops or sell them at too-good-to-be-true prices; they just cruise for a while in flash and style and then abandon the cars, often near gay nightclubs. "I guess they just wanted to look good when they got there," Birmingham auto theft Sgt. D.P. Smith said Monday.

High-dollar rides have disappeared off lots in Tuscaloosa, Selma, Montgomery, Huntsville and Birmingham. Investigators have recovered about 10 to 15 cars in Birmingham and as far away as New Orleans and Memphis. Police also have the keys to at least 20 others.

"They've either gotten a whole lot more cars or they've gotten the keys and haven't stolen them yet," Smith said. "We need all dealerships to do an inventory of their keys and their cars. Cars may be missing, and they may not even know it."

Police so far have charged three men with receiving stolen property in the heists: Decarius Conner, 18; Anthony Erby, 18; and James Hopkins, 22.

Erby and Conner are out of jail on bond. Hopkins, who is also charged with escape, remains at large.

Smith said others are involved and more charges could follow.

"Hopefully this will slow them down," he said.


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