Ford Econoline van
By Forum Staff
After concocting an elaborate conspiracy scheme focused on swiping Econoline vans and similar vehicles and stripping them from bumper to bumper to sell parts, three people have been arrested and charged with a multitude of crimes. A second crew was hauled in for staging collisions.
Law enforcement conducted a detailed investigation and say the trio of bandits cruised areas throughout Queens County and occasionally Nassau County to steal vans between July 2017, and February 2018.
According to a statement by Queens DA Richard Brown, “The defendants in this case turned an illegal venture into a dedicated job. They lurked in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning allegedly stealing vans, arranging meets to sell parts and even quoted prices – $100 for seats, $120 for radios.”
In an associated case, authorities dismantled an insurance fraud crew that faked car crashes to bilk insurance companies out of cash from car collisions and bogus injuries.
Superintendent Maria T. Vullo of NYS Dept. of Financial Services said, “these defendants engineered a scheme to fraudulently enrich themselves at the cost of higher premiums for hardworking taxpayers.”
Chukuweike Emeni (aka Emzie Snipes), 35, of Far Rockaway, is the main defendant in the plots to steal vans and stage car crashes and was arraigned last week on multiple complaints charging him with third- and fourth-degree grand larceny, third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, fifth-degree conspiracy, third-degree insurance fraud, third-degree attempted grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records. Bail was set at $210,000 for all cases and Emni was ordered back to court on July 10. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.
Two other defendants Teyana Paul, 22, of Rosedale, and Mark Thomas, 24, of Amsterdam in upstate New York, were arraigned on June 6, on various charges including third-degree grand larceny, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property and fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted they face up to seven years in prison.
According to the charges, said District Attorney Brown, between July 2017, and February 2018, on at least a dozen occasions either all three defendants or just two would go out and take an Econoline van from the street or a parking lot and drive away with it.
Vans disappeared from Little Neck, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Flushing and Kew Gardens, Freeport, Rockville Centre and Long Beach. Recoveries were made throughout Queens. When found the vehicles had been stripped of various parts, including seats, headlights, the rooftop, bumpers, tires, tail lights, radios, side panels and other items.
Law enforcement using court authorized eavesdropping tools and overheard numerous conversations with Emeni telling buyers he had seats available at $100 each, a car battery priced at $70 and four tires selling for $350.
Cell phone records in many instances placed the defendants in the area where the vehicles were stolen and where they were recovered. Video surveillance also allegedly placed the defendants at the scene and in many instances defendant Paul could be seen in her silver Toyota Highlander following behind the stolen van.
Two additional defendants Darnell Johnson, 29, of Queens, and Nadine Paul 29, have also been charged on various counts including third-degree insurance fraud, third-degree attempted grand larceny, first-degree falsifying business records and fifth-degree conspiracy. Both face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Emeni and Teyana Paul are also charged in the insurance fraud case.