By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Vlad saunters back into the street and climbs into the waiting BMW, which is now fully registered, insured, legal and absolovely pristine inside and out.
Life in America is beyond a dream come true for Vlad and Rad and their extended family, it's a regular fairy tale. Even with our drive-by shootings and high murder rate, crime is not as lethal as where he came from.
I have to be a little vague on Vlad and Rad's background because it's not every gang of car thieves who are part of a large Greek Orthodox family. The kids would be truly shamed - chagrined and dismayed even - to have the clan's illicit activity exposed.
But aside from protecting the family name, Vlad is a confident crook. He started stealing cars "because it's easy. E-A-S-Y. Easy.
"When I first got here, my people were into lots of things," he explains. "Insurance scores, a little drugs, counterfeiting clothes and watches. When Ivan the Boss started with cars, we could just go rent one, report it stolen, give it to Ivan. He'd kick with five hundred to a thousand, depending on the make and so on."
Vlad would get the rental with fake IDs made by "one of our guys." One day, though, he walked into a Hertz "and one of the chicks there recognized me from renting something a couple months before using a different name. That's what I get for flirting with all the women I talk to. I can't help it. They like me. I like them."
Anyway, he beat a fast retreat.
Vlad's accent is growing thicker as we talk at a local watering hole - he's been downing more than a bit of iced Stoli. But he's coherent enough to review some tricks of the trade, like his alarm deactivator, which he special-ordered from a high-tech Beverly Hills shop. Like many items of merchandise in Beverly Hills, it's an import. This baby was hand-assembled in one of the old Eastern Bloc nations. It sends out digital codes, just like the ones people use to turn their car alarms on and off or open their garage doors. He may not know your code, but his device will send out hundreds of signals until it hits the right numbers.
Ignition locks aren't a problem either: "Just rip the lock out and start it with a screwdriver."
He likes the car racket because he can steal three or four a day. Sometimes a custom order, but mostly standard Japanese imports and four-wheel drives.
"Think about it," he says. "They're all over the place. I spot what I want, then I stand around holding a transmitter. I'm not touching the car, not breaking any law." When the alarm chirps off, "I'm in the car and gone in under a minute. Unless I fuck up, speed, fail to signal, run a light, how am I going to get caught? Huh? Tell me."
I ask him about the Club and LoJack, and he laughs: "The Club can be drilled or cut, although they're a pain in the ass," he admits. "Speed is the thing, and the Club slows you down. I just keep looking until I find something easy. Why increase your risk factor?"
As for LoJack, "they have to know the car's gone before they can call it in. By that time it'll be chopped into little teeny pieces and the LoJack transmitter thrown into a moving garbage truck." If you've got to steal a car with LoJack, then it helps if you know the driver won't be returning for a while. The problem is, you don't always know that when you're cruising. So maybe the racket isn't as eternally foolproof as Vlad claims. I can remember when I had that confidence, that feeling that I would never fuck up.
Vlad is chain-smoking as we talk, lighting each cigarette from the butt of the last with fingers slightly yellowed from the continual smoke. But it doesn't detract from the jewelry on his fingers and wrists. His hair is cut perfectly, and he changes clothes two, three, four times a day. The fact is, this is a pretty motherfucker. If it wasn't for the insane energy coming off him and the manic look in his eyes, he probably could be a model or something.
He smiles: "I can spend a couple grand a week doing nothing. Clothes, women, my own cars, food. A couple grand easy."
Vlad spends a lot of his free time learning new dance steps, practicing kick boxing and reading magazines to make sure he's current with what's up and what's happening. "Ya gotta stay tan. Always have a tan. If I can't hit the beach or at least lay out for an hour or two a day, I hit the tanning parlor."
His future plans don't go much beyond tonight. "Going to Sky Bar. Want to go? Bitches for days, hot- and cold-running bitches, man. Check it out. You'll dig it."
I'm thinking that I probably would, but I turn him down anyway. I don't got the right clothes.