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Five new SUVs stolen at airport.

Police: Thief got leg up at car rental lot

Disabled people must often work twice as hard to succeed in skills the nondisabled take for granted.

Consider the case of Benjamin Copeland, 44, who, despite losing his right leg 10 years ago - his then-girlfriend's ex-husband blasted him with a shotgun - became accomplished at driving right-centric autos with his left foot.

Maybe too good.

Philadelphia police yesterday charged him with driving off with five new SUVs last month from a Philadelphia International Airport rental car lot. Police said the investigation began after the first car - a 2008 Ford Expedition - was stolen May 9.

A video surveillance camera at the Budget and Avis Rental outlets on Arrival Road near the airport showed a one-legged man enter the lot and drive off with the vehicle. The man would make his way to the rear exit of the lots via shuttle buses. He would enter a bus and open the gate using a remote switch located in each bus, and then go out and drive off in a stolen SUV.

Yesterday, two days after the fifth SUV was stolen, police said they set up surveillance at 9 a.m. and allegedly followed Copeland to the 1600 block of South Napa Street in Grays Ferry.

Later, police said, Copeland left his house and got into the 2008 Ford Explorer that had been reported stolen two days earlier.

Police said Copeland was being held on five counts of theft, receiving stolen property, and unauthorized use of a vehicle.