HOUSTON Police have broken up a major organized crime ring based out of Miami, Houston Police Department officials said.

Investigators said the individuals allegedly victimized nearly 200 people in the Houston area and likely thousands of people nationwide.

We found out that these people have been hitting quite a few large cities in the southern U.S., said an undercover sergeant who headed up the case.

An auto-theft task force made up of investigators from Fort Bend County, DPS, Metro, and HPD broke the case wide open after a tip came in to the Fort Bend County Sheriff s Office and Crime Stoppers. Using the information, the task force began conducting surveillance on the suspects staying at two different Houston hotels on the west side.

HPD said the ring leader is a man named Cory Harris and his mode of operation was simple. Harris allegedly hired middle men to break into cars and steal purses. Their main targets were moms dropping their children at local day cares.

Unfortunately a lot of women, when they drop off their children at the day cares, leave their purse on the front seat of the car and say I m only going to be here for a minute, and a lot of times leave their cars running, said the undercover sergeant.

With stolen IDs in hand the group would then start recruiting women to help them, police said. Police said they were women who were usually down on their luck. The crime ring would also look for women who looked like many of the victims. They would then be driven to banks where they asked for their balances. Then they would go to another bank branch and cash checks.

This particular bunch when we caught them had made about 4,900 bucks in about three hours, the undercover sergeant said.

HPD showed KHOU 11 News more than 600 stolen credit cards, drivers licenses, and checkbooks all stolen in the last few months.

The main guy (Harris) has been doing this for about 20 years. I m sure they have a stash of IDs and credit cards in all the major cities hit, the undercover sergeant said.

The task force is now in the process of calling all the victims.

HPD says this case should remind us all not to leave our valuables inside our vehicles. This is a crime that can be stopped.

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