Grand Jury Indicts Members of Borough Theft Ring

Grand Jury Indicts Members of Borough Theft Ring

PHOTO:  One of the vehicles that were allegedly stolen by the indicted theft ring.  Photo Courtesy of NYPD


A grand jury has returned a series of indictments charging eight Brooklyn men for their alleged participation in a theft ring operating in Queens and elsewhere that specialized in selling stolen vehicles, firearms, narcotics and counterfeit cash and license plates, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.

Five of the suspects are in custody and three are still being sought.

The 16-month investigation leading to the indictments and arrests began in April 2014, Brown said, when cops assigned to the NYPD’s Auto Crimes Division Theft Squad commenced a joint operation with the DA’s Rackets Bureau looking into a theft ring that was offering temporary paper license plates for sale on

A person known to Brown’s office allegedly contacted the cell phone number listed in the posting and later met with defendant Ariel Santiago in Queens, where the person purchased phony temporary license plates packaged with accompanying documents, which included blank bills of sale templates, blank 30-day temporary insurance coverage conformation forms and four blank Florida temporary registration receipts all stamped with the name of an actual auto sales business.

When the person mentioned at the meeting with Santiago, 22, that he shipped stolen vehicles to Africa and used the paper plates to transport the cars to the ports, Santiago allegedly stated that he knew people who sold high-end stolen vehicles with keys.

At a second meeting later that month, the person met with Santiago to purchase five additional forged temporary plates and spoke with other alleged members of the theft ring, Brian Hernandez, 21, and Luvere Gantt, 22, about buying stolen cars and vehicles.

During a series of buys over the next month, the person purchased several stolen motorcycles from Santiago, Hernandez and Gantt and, in one instance from Gerardo Torres, 21, who, along with Gantt, Joseph Santiago (no relation to Ariel Santiago), 27, and Matthew Moses, 21, later allegedly sold cocaine and heroin to other persons known to Brown’s office.

In addition to the six above-mentioned defendants, Sean Vargas, 25, and Kevin Primo, 21, also took part in selling stolen vehicles, firearms and/or counterfeit cash to the persons known to the District Attorney’s Office.

Brown said that the majority of the stolen vehicles were allegedly obtained through fraudulent means from rental car companies such as Zipcar, Hertz, Enterprise, Dollar, and Budget.

“The theft ring profited from a variety of illegal activities including the sale of illegal firearms and narcotics,” Bratton said, “but was shut down thanks to the hard work of the investigators of the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division and the prosecutors of the Queens District Attorney’s Office.”




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