Arrest exposes transnational auto theft ring

Lilliana Salgado was formally charged for allegedly stealing Elizonda's Jeep Liberty from a church parking lot

Eloisa Elizonda made a point to be at the San Juan Police Department Thursday afternoon.

She wanted to see the woman who has cost her thousands of dollars.

"I wanted to ask her where my vehicle was so maybe I could recover it," Elizonda said.

Elizonda will have to wait to face the woman who allegedly stole her Jeep because she was not allowed into the small courtroom.

Thursday afternoon, a judge formally charged Lilliana Salgado for allegedly stealing Elizonda's Jeep Liberty from a church parking lot last month.

Salgado was handed over to San Juan Police after being arrested for stealing another car in McAllen.

"She was already a suspect in McAllen police in some other auto thefts," Sgt. Rolando Garcia said.

Elizonda says the arrest is a bittersweet moment that she's been waiting to see happen for the past three weeks.

"Because she got caught, at least one person is off the streets that is stealing cars," she said.

Police were able to identify Salgado from video surveillance at an international bridge that shows her driving the jeep into Mexico less than an hour after it was stolen.

Now investigators believe Salgado is part of a larger auto theft ring and hope her arrest may lead to many more.

"Just with the intent of getting the car into another country tells us that it's something that is more organized and it's not just her," Sgt. Garcia said.

Although Salgado is now in police custody, Elizonda's Jeep is still missing and will likely never be recovered.

Elizonda had liability insurance and was still making auto loan payments on her used car.

She said next time she will make sure she protects herself financially.

"I hope that it (the jeep) is recovered in the future but if not I guess this is a lesson learned that we need to get our cars fully insured," she said.

Salgado was given a $30,000 bond.