Ex Falcons cheerleader, others linked to statewide car theft ring

ATHENS, Ga. -- A former Atlanta Falcons cheerleader arrested in Lincoln County last month is being linked to a wider investigation of a statewide stolen car ring and "chop shop."


Kori Lanard was arrested April 29 in Lincoln County, where stolen car suspect Kirk Bray and Lanard's sister eluded deputies by fleeing into some woods after they were found with stolen vehicles.

Lanard, who lives in Oconee County outside Athens, is a former Atlanta Falcons cheerleader who once lived with Bray.

She and her sister, Lauren Lanard, are suspected accomplices in Bray's chop shop operation, police said.

Charges continue to mount against an accused chop shop operator as authorities link him to trucks, trailers and heavy equipment that were stolen from metro Atlanta to the South Carolina border, the Athens Banner Herald reports.

Deputies arrested the 38-year-old  Bray on May 5 after he crashed a stolen truck into a car driven by a deputy's grandparents on the Oconee Connector.

At the time, Bray already was suspected of stealing a truck from an Athens dealership.

Authorities later uncovered a chop shop they say he ran in Cherokee County north of Atlanta .

"There are so many agencies with so many different pieces of the picture," Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said earlier this week.

"This is a case that's turning into epic proportions," Berry said. "Every rock you kick over, you find new evidence."

At last count, investigators from nearly a dozen agencies had taken out warrants on Bray on charges he stole trucks and other vehicles in Barrow, Madison, Oconee and seven other counties.

"People all across the state of Georgia and Tennessee are working on this guy," Berry said.

Investigators plan to gather soon to share information as they try to connect Bray and others to the chop shop operation, according to Cherokee County sheriff's Lt. Jay Baker.

"A meeting is likely to take place in the next couple of weeks where every jurisdiction involved can sit down in the same room and review Bray's activities prior to his arrest," Baker said.

Authorities wouldn't say if they've connected Bray to chop shops other than the one in Cherokee County, though Berry said authorities found stolen trucks and vehicle parts when they searched a site in Franklin County.

In Cherokee County, authorities found a trove of stolen goods.

"The items located at Bray's home ranged from car parts, a stolen tractor-trailer, a Ford F-350 pickup, two International dump trucks and a Starcraft RV," Baker said.

Investigators identified a business in Walton County where they say Bray sold parts from stolen trucks.

Bray mostly targeted Ford trucks, particularly the F-250 and F-350 models, authorities say.

"He loved Fords - the bigger, the better," Berry said.

But Bray also stole trailers and their contents, like construction equipment, police said.

"There's an instance where he stole a Bobcat in Douglas County and sold it in Walton County," Berry said.

Athens-Clarke police Detective Lamar Glenn hopes to interview Bray about a truck that was stolen from an Atlanta Highway dealership only days before Bray was arrested in Oconee County.

A deputy in Oglethorpe County stopped the stolen Ford F-350, but Bray and Kori Lanard, 30, ran from the truck and escaped.

Authorities don't know how large the case against Bray and his accomplices may grow, but they're working on numerous apparently related cases while Bray remains locked up without bail in the Oconee County Jail.

"No one is in a hurry to charge him and get a bunch of warrants, because he's not going anywhere," Berry said.



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