SKOWHEGAN — Police have arrested a pair of teenagers in connection with a string of local car break-ins that may have been inspired by a social media trend.

Janathian M. Viles, 19, of Waterville was arrested by Fairfield Police on Tuesday on three counts of aggravated criminal mischief, three counts of burglary of motor vehicle and one count of receiving stolen property, all class C charges, according to court records.

Janathian M. Viles Somerset County Jail photo

The 15-year-old suspect was arrested in January on one count of criminal mischief, four counts of burglary of a motor vehicle and three counts of theft by unauthorized taking and transfer, according to Officer Monique Dudley of the Skowhegan Police Department.

Viles told investigators that he and the 15-year-old broke into at least one of the cars involved based on videos they saw online about how to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles, Skowhegan Police Detective Sgt. Kelly Hooper wrote in an affidavit filed in Somerset County Unified Criminal Court.

The pair targeted a variety of vehicles but took advantage of a security issue with the key fobs used for Hyundai and Kia vehicles, said Dudley, who assisted in the investigation.

Since 2021, police across the country have reported large numbers of thefts of vehicles made by the two Korean manufacturers, blaming the trend on viral videos on TikTok and other social media platforms that show how to steal the vehicles with simple tools.


The thefts have continued even after the two carmakers issued a security fix in early 2023, The Associated Press reported.

“I would recommend taking your key fobs back to the manufacturer or dealer,” Dudley said. “It’s becoming a trend, unfortunately.”

Viles mentioned the internet videos to detectives investigating reports in recent months of stolen and damaged vehicles in Skowhegan, according to the affidavit filed by Hooper.

On Dec. 10, Skowhegan police received a report of a Hyundai stolen from the Indian Ridge Apartments and reports of a Hyundai and a Kia parked at a Big Bird Street residence that appeared to have been broken into overnight, Hooper wrote in the affidavit.

The Hyundai on Big Bird Street was “torn apart” inside and had severe damage under the steering wheel, Hooper wrote. The Kia had damage to the door lock, but it appeared nobody broke in.

Police located Viles in Jay and he later admitted to driving the vehicle stolen from the Indian Ridge Apartments but said the 15-year-old stole it, Hooper wrote.


Viles was issued a summons on charges related to the Indian Ridge theft, according to the affidavit.

On Jan. 5, Skowhegan police responded to the same Big Bird Street residence for damage to the same Kia that was damaged in the December attempted break-in, Hooper wrote. This time, police found severe damage to the steering column and exposed wires inside the car.

Police then located the 15-year-old Viles had identified, who was arrested on a warrant for failure to appear on other charges, according to the affidavit.

After his arrest, the 15-year-old admitted to investigators that he and Viles were responsible for the burglaries of the cars at the Indian Ridge Apartments and on Big Bird Street, Hooper wrote.

The 15-year-old also said he was involved in five total break-ins.

Police then obtained an arrest warrant for Viles, who also had a warrant for failure to appear on charges out of Kennebec County, according to the affidavit.


Viles is being held at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, an officer in the jail’s intake department said Thursday morning. Bail is set at $1,000 cash, according to court records.

The 15-year-old is being held at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, Skowhegan Police Chief David Bucknam said. A judge ordered that the teenager continue to be held at the correctional facility because of a prior criminal history, according to Bucknam.

“We’ve had a lot of dealings with this juvenile,” Bucknam said.

Viles also has a previous record with Skowhegan police. Last March, he was charged with terrorizing after a social media post containing what police deemed a threat closed Skowhegan area schools for a day.

Viles, who at the time told the Morning Sentinel that he participated in a Skowhegan adult education program, said the post was not intended to cause any harm.

Bucknam on Thursday confirmed Viles’ previous criminal history.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.