CHICAGO (CBS) – Three area men have been busted for stealing cars off the streets of Chicago with tow trucks and stripping their parts for cash, police said Thursday.

The charges are the results of an undercover sting called “Operation Hook ‘Em Up.”

Javier Garcia-Cruz, 27, of Bolingbrook and Anthony McMorries, 52, of Chicago were both charged with two counts of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Jose Sanchez, 44, of the 5700 block of W. Thomas was charged with one count of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, Chicago police said in a news release.

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All appeared in bond court Thursday.

Acting on citizen complaints, police say they recently launched an investigation into claims that tow truck drivers were snatching vehicles from city streets and from motorists who had been involved in traffic accidents.

Police learned the offenders “harvested” expensive components, such as GPS monitors, DVD players, and stereo equipment. The offenders sold the remains of the vehicles to scrap yards, police said.

Officers used surveillance video to identify and apprehend the three offenders charged.

Chicago Police Sgt. Joe Petrenko says the thefts wouldn’t have seemed suspicious to the average person who saw the tows.

“You’d probably think it was just a normal tow, that somebody ordered the tow for the car because it broke down, if it was involved in an accident,” he said at a news conference.

The investigation continues.

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