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Maryland car thief ringleader sentenced to 25 years in prison

Prosecutors say Marcus Kemp of D.C. recruited buddies in his neighborhood to steal more than $450,000 worth of high-end cars in Chevy Chase.

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Car thefts are up more than 20% in each of the last two years in Montgomery County, and now a circuit court judge is sending out a tough message.

Montgomery County Judge Sharon Burrell just sentenced Markus Kemp, 23, of D.C. to 25 years in prison.  

"I don't think we've ever had a case that involved car thefts, only car thefts, where there was not violence, that got this kind of sentence, 25 years. It was richly deserved," said Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.

Kemp pleaded guilty to five counts of auto theft, conspiracy, theft over $25,000, and burglary. Prosecutors said he recruited friends and pilfered high-end cars in the suburbs and then rented them out in D.C. for prices up to $1,000 a day.

Kemp was a particularly bold and brazen thief, recruiting buddies from his D.C. neighborhood to case the wealthy, quiet streets of Chevy Chase and Bethesda in the midst of the pandemic lockdown and often in broad daylight, looking for only the most expensive cars, prosecutors said.

He struck at least 13 times between January and July 2020 and made off with more than $450,000 worth of Audis, Teslas and other vehicles.

At one point, he posted on Instagram with a Model X with a base price of $120,990.

"Until it happens to you, you can't believe it..... You're violated, you're violated. Your sense of peace is gone," said Paulo Costa, a neighbor of one of the victims.

"This is not the first time the defendant was involved in orchestrating motor vehicle thefts. In 2019, as an adult, the defendant was charged for four separate incidents involving theft, motor vehicle theft, and rogue and vagabond in Chevy Chase, MD. As a result, the defendant was placed on probation in January 2020 (C.R. #135619C) after being convicted of motor vehicle theft as an adult. Only a few weeks after being placed on probation, the defendant violated his probation by engaging in these additional motor vehicle thefts and burglaries." according to a sentencing memo from the State's Attorney's Office. 

Prosecutor McCarthy said Kemp was a sort of criminal entrepreneur. 

"He would take these high-end cars, take them into D.C., and then he started his own rental business... Each car, $200 to $500 a day. He bragged about the fact that he got $1,000 one day for a single car rental," he said.

McCarthy praised the dedicated Montgomery County Police auto theft squad, which broke the case, but has since been disbanded.

One guy who had his Tesla stolen tracked it into D.C. with his phone. When he got to that location and saw no one around, he jumped in his car, started it with his phone, and drove it home, McCarthy said.

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