Man Convicted of “Kia Challenge” Style Auto Theft in Norfolk
NORFOLK, Va. – On Wednesday, 35-year-old Steven Leslie Starrette was convicted in Norfolk Circuit Court of grand larceny of an automobile, among other charges, after stealing a vehicle in the same manner as depicted in problematic “Kia Challenge” videos circulated online.
On May 17, 2023, Norfolk Police received an automated notice from Norfolk’s FLOCK camera system that a 2013 Hyundai Accent — that had been reported stolen three days before — was near East Little Creek Road in Norfolk. Officers found the vehicle parked at the Airport Quik Mart, and Mr. Starrette was inside the store. When officers asked if the car belonged to him, Mr. Starrette said, “Yes,” and the officers detained him. Mr. Starrette was also found to have methamphetamine on his person. When officers searched the car, they found that the steering column and ignition had been removed and that Mr. Starrette had left behind a screwdriver, pliers, and a saw. Video surveillance footage confirmed that Mr. Starrette was driving the stolen Hyundai when he pulled up to the store.
Mr. Starrette pleaded guilty on Wednesday to felony grand larceny of an automobile, misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, and failure to appear at an earlier court date. Judge Everett A. Martin Jr. accepted his plea, and Mr. Starrette is docketed for sentencing on Nov. 3.
“A design flaw in 8.3 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles led to an 85% increase nationwide in thefts of those cars in 2022,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi. “The ‘Kia Challenge’ to steal these cars, with simple Internet instructions, is real. If you drive a 2011-2022 Hyundai or Kia, please contact a local dealer to have this flaw repaired, and please use steering-wheel immobilizers until then. In the meantime, we will continue to prosecute people who steal cars and thereby disrupt the lives and livelihoods of law-abiding citizens.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney James S. Strickland is prosecuting Mr. Starrette’s case on behalf of the Commonwealth.