BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A 19-year-old Buffalo man who had been charged in connection with a string of vehicle thefts in Niagara Falls as part of an internet trend could spend nearly a decade behind bars, Niagara County District Attorney Brian D. Seaman announced Friday.
Michael A. Arcay, pleaded guilty to one count of grand larceny and two counts of criminal possession of stolen property, was sentenced to 3 to 9 years in state prison.
Arcay, who the DA’s office said was a “self-proclaimed member of the ‘Kia Boys,’” had been charged with stealing or possessing 10 stolen Kia or Hyundai vehicles in February and March. In one incident, authorities say Arcay led police on a high speed chase while driving a stolen car.
“Theft of Kia and Hyundai vehicles, fueled largely by social media, has been a huge issue for law enforcement nationwide,” Seaman said in a media release. “Stealing someone else’s car is a serious crime. Leading police on a high speed chase puts lives at risk. The end of these crimes isn’t internet fame, it’s prison.”
Police departments across Western New York have for months been sounding the alarm about a social media trend called the “Kia Challenge” that gained traction on TikTok and has led to a slew of car thefts and related lawsuits locally and nationwide.
This week, a sentence was handed down to a Buffalo teenager in a separate case in which the driver, who was 16 at the time, crashed a stolen Kia on an embankment, ejecting and killing four teenage passengers. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia at the time suggested the crash may have been linked to the TikTok trend, where users posted videos appearing to show how to hotwire certain Kia and Hyundai models.
In May, Kia and Hyundai agreed to a $200 million settlement in a class action suit that tied security flaws in the design of certain models to a rise in thefts.
Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.