Cops, DA Slam Brakes on Major Auto Theft Ring

Cops, DA Slam Brakes on Major Auto Theft Ring

PHOTO:  Police last week executed a search warrant at the home of one of the suspected members of a borough auto theft ring and recovered large quantities of cocaine and heroin. Photo Courtesy of NYPD


A Queens grand jury has indicted 17 suspects for their alleged participation in a large-scale auto theft and “title washing” ring between February 2013 and November 2014, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and city Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.

Fourteen of the defendants are in custody; three are still being sought, Brown said.

Eight of the defendants have been charged in a 128-count indictment charging them with, among other crimes, Enterprise Corruption under the Organized Crime Control Act.

The suspects are accused of stealing more than 80 cars—including expensive GMC Yukon Denalis, BMWs, Range Rovers and Mercedes Benzes—from Queens and elsewhere between Feb. 22, 2013, and Nov. 29, 2014.

The crew swiped high-end, newer vehicles off of city streets, as well as from dealerships and, in some instances, stole vehicles “to-order.”

Crew members would allegedly locate a car, acquire the vehicle identification number and then take the VIN to a locksmith, who would manufacture a key. The suspect would then return to the car and use the key to drive it to a location in Queens, where forged documents were created to conceal the vehicle’s true identity. A broker would then allegedly re-sell the vehicle.

“The indictments are the result of a sweeping two and a half year investigation by the New York City Police Department’s Auto Crime Division and my Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau,” Brown noted. “The defendants are accused of stealing scores of luxury vehicles from city streets and car dealerships and ‘washing’ the vehicles’ titles by changing the VINs before selling the vehicles through a black market broker with ‘clean’ papers. The ring’s members were purportedly highly organized and fast.”

Additionally, Brown said, early last week police executed a search warrant at the home of alleged crew member Edward Gomez on 100th Avenue in Hollis and allegedly recovered three kilograms of cocaine, one kilogram of heroin, a scale, and $2,000 cash.

“Using the streets of New York City as their own personal shopping grounds, these individuals allegedly stole high-end vehicles, which were then resold illegally, but thanks to the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division, this auto larceny operation was shut down,” Bratton said.

Brown used last week’s indictments to highlight his office’s efforts to combat auto theft, a crime that continues to plague parts of Queens.

“Since becoming District Attorney in 1991, my office has been at the forefront of the battle against auto crime,” he said. “I have devoted significant resources to ferreting out criminal organizations that profit from the illicit trafficking in stolen autos, auto parts and insurance fraud—and with great success. As a result, we have seen car thefts dramatically drop from a high of approximately 52,000 cars being stolen annually in 1991 to just over 2,400 last year. As such, we remain committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting such conduct. Those who make the mistake of setting up shop in Queens face serious felony charges and prison sentences.”


By Michael V. Cusenza


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