International Vehicle Theft And Export Ring Has Been Dismantled

NEW YORK, NY (June 30, 2010) Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and New York State Police Superintendent John Melville, today announced the dismantling of a sophisticated, international, luxury-vehicle theft ring that allegedly stole hundreds of vehicles in New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Today, a series of early morning raids conducted by Attorney General Cuomo’s Organized Crime Task Force, the New York City Police Department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau Auto Crime Division, and the New York State Police’s Auto Theft Unit capped an investigation dubbed “Operation Trans Atlantic.” The vehicle theft ring was comprised of 17 individuals including exporters, steal men, brokers, a garage attendant, and two Toyota dealership employees who supplied duplicate vehicle keys.

The investigation, which began with a tip, utilized wiretaps and other surveillance to gather evidence against the Bronx-based operation that allegedly stole vehicles from public streets, car dealerships, and parking garages in the tri-State area. They specialized in stealing Toyota automobiles, including RAV4s, Highlanders, Sequoias, and 4Runners, as well as other high end makes such as Mercedes, BMW, Infiniti, Range Rover, and Audi. Once in possession of the stolen vehicles, the defendants allegedly created fraudulent documentation for the vehicles, and either sold them in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and Texas, or shipped them in containers to Senegal, disguising the containers’ contents by using manifests that falsely claimed that the containers held household goods.

“By coordinating our efforts and resources, state and local law enforcement have dismantled a highly organized and technologically savvy criminal enterprise that spanned from the tri-state area all the way to Africa,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “This alleged operation was breathtaking in its size, scope, and sophistication. From top to bottom it took a business-like approach to victimizing innocent New Yorkers.”

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, “I want to commend the detectives from the NYPD's Auto Crime Division, the State Police and the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force for their efforts in shutting down this crew of international car thieves. As a result of successful investigations like this, we have been able to drive down auto crime in New York City by over 60% in the past decade. That translates into tens of thousands fewer car theft victims since 2002. But one car theft is one too many, especially for those New Yorkers whose cars ended up on the streets of Senegal.”

Acting New York State Police Superintendent John P. Melville said, “The outstanding cooperation, communication, and investigative prowess executed by the State Police Special Investigation / Auto Theft Unit, the New York State Attorney General’s Office Organized Crime Task Force, the New York City Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies was crucial to this successful outcome. The termination of a major vehicle theft operation and recovery of a significant number of stolen vehicles were indicative of the complexity and widespread influence of these vehicle traffickers. The diligence of these investigators is nothing less than exceptional police work.”

In total, 17 individuals - including a boss, a shipper/transporter, “key men”, vehicle thieves, and other members of the alleged illicit crew - were charged with felonies filed in Bronx County. Twelve of them were charged in a 48-count indictment with, among other crimes, Enterprise Corruption, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Forgery, Grand Larceny, and Conspiracy. Enterprise Corruption alone carries a maximum penalty of up to 25 years in prison. A number of other defendants were separately indicted for Criminal Possession of Stolen Property and Grand Larceny for their participation in this ring.

According to the indictment, orders would be placed with a member of the steal crew, specifying what was to be stolen by model, year, color, and accessory package. Members of the steal crew would then “fill the order” by locating the specified car on the street, in parking lots, and even in dealerships. The steal team entered targeted cars using a key obtained from a dealership or locksmith by another crew member. Once inside the targeted car, the steal man would use a portable computer to program the key to synch to the vehicle’s unique code, enabling him to cleanly steal the vehicle with little or no damage to it. If the stolen vehicle was to be sold within the United States, forged document specialists created paperwork, including VIN stickers and titles, for the vehicle. More frequently, the vehicles would be stored, or “laid up,” at a Bronx location until they were loaded, often three at a time, into a container to be transported to a port and shipped to Senegal. In order to facilitate the movement of the containers holding the stolen vehicles, the ring created false manifests disguising the containers’ true contents.

According to the indictment, Babacar Lo (a.k.a. “Bobby”) was the enterprise’s boss and primary exporter. He was responsible for selecting the cars to be stolen, directing the steal crews to carry out the thefts, and arranging for the stolen vehicles to be shipped abroad or to be resold in the United States.

Ibrahime Sall (a.k.a. “Raheem”) was Babacar Lo’s right hand, assisting Lo in all phases of the operation, and dealt primarily with coordinating the loading of the stolen vehicles into containers and getting them to New Jersey ports.

Nelson Reyes (a.k.a. “Gordo”) and Christian “Aneudy” Diaz headed up steal crews, which consisted of Edinkson Belliard-Mendoza (a.k.a. “Edison”), Willibeld Ventura (a.k.a. “Willi”), Juan Navarro, Maximo Gonzalez, Pedro Acosta-Capois (a.k.a. “Dominican Dave”), David Flores, Harold Salce, and William Padilla, who stole and transported the vehicles.

Danny Duran and Reynaldo Colon were “key men” who covertly obtained blank keys from the two Toyota dealerships where each was employed and from other manufacturers, which the steal men used to gain entry into the targeted cars.

Ali Abou and Bobby Arjune were employed at Bronx garages, and facilitated the storage, or “laying up,” of the stolen cars until it could be determined whether the cars had Lojack or any other tracking devices. Once the cars were determined to be without tracking devices, they were either sold or sent abroad.

Those charged in first indictment with Enterprise Corruption (class B felony) and other charges are:

* Ali Abdou, 53, of the Bronx
* Edinkson Belliard-Mendoza (Edison), 20, of the Bronx
* Reinaldo Colon, 28, of Patterson, NJ
* Christian Diaz-Arvelo, 25, of Woodhaven
* Danny Duran, 29, of Queens Village
* David Flores-Cuadros, 22, of Woodside
* Maximo Gonzalez, 25, of the Bronx
* Babacar Lo (Bobby), 32, of Senegal/Bronx
* William Padilla (Flaco), 20, of the Bronx
* Nelson Reyes (Gordo), 30, of the Bronx
* Harold Salce (Manny), 19, of the Bronx
* Ibrahime Sall (Raheem), 36, of Senegal/Bronx

Those charged in the second indictment with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (class D felony) are:

* Pedro Acosta-Capois, 24, of Manhattan
* Irvin Rosario (Pinky), 22, of the Bronx

Those charged in the third indictment with Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the third degree (class D felony) are:

* Maximo Gonzalez, 25, of the Bronx
* Elhadje Kende, 32, of Manhattan
* William Padilla, 20, of the Bronx
* Harold Salce (Manny), 19, of the Bronx
* Jose Victoriano-Metivier (J), 26, of the Bronx

Those charged in the fourth indictment with Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the second degree (class C felony) are:

* Edinkson Belliard-Mendoza (Edison), 20, of the Bronx
* Babacar Lo (Bobby), 32, of Senegal/Bronx
* Juan Navarro (Russo), 21, of the Bronx

Those charged in the fifth indictment with Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the third degree (class D felony) are:

* Christian Diaz-Arvelo, 25, of Woodhaven
* Jose Edgar Marcono, 30, of South Richmond Hill

The charges are the result of a joint investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, the New York City Police Department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau Auto Crime Division, and the New York State Police’s Auto Theft Unit, with the assistance of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Attorney General Cuomo thanked these agencies for their partnership in the investigation.

The investigation was conducted by New York State Police Acting Senior Investigator Philip Wolfburg and Investigator Marcelo Guevara and New York City Police Department Detectives Christopher Connolly and Joseph Wedge of the NYPD Auto Crime Division, under the supervision of Sergeant Steven Latalardo and Lieutenant Nicolai Trevigno and the overall supervision of Captain Joseph Kenney and Organized Crime Control Chief Anthony Izzo.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Dana A. Roth, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff.

The charges are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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