Thursday, May 7, 2009

Brazen Car Theft Ring Dismantled

Luxury Vehicles Driven Off Dealer Lots

By Conor Greene

Members of a car theft ring that stole luxury vehicles off the parking lots of local dealerships – often exiting through holes cut in the chain link fences – were arrested after a nine-month joint probe between the NYPD and Queens District Attorney.

Eight individuals, including a middle school assistant principal from Brooklyn, were arrested as a result of a nine-month investigation dubbed “Operation Lockbox,” announced Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The individuals were indicted on charges involving the theft of 16 late model, high-end cars worth more than $400,000.

The majority of the vehicles, which included 2008 model BMWs, Mercedes Benzs and Lincolns, were stolen right off the parking lots of major auto dealerships. The vehicle’s identification numbers were changed or altered before they were resold.

According to the charges, Melvin Pinckney, 54, of Brooklyn, stole the vehicles from dealership parking lots in Queens and Long Island with the help of alleged ring members David Jimenez, 40, and Alexander Gill, 34, both of Brooklyn. The majority of the vehicles were taken from Recon Motors on 14th Avenue in Whitestone, which is a storage facility where numerous local dealerships store their excess inventory.

After driving the vehicles off the lot, often through large holes
cut in the dealership’s fence, the thieves drove the cars to various locations, such as a parking garage on Eldert Lane in Brooklyn and the vicinity of 78th Street and 153rd Avenue in Queens, where they were kept until they were sold.

Members of the ring including Eddie Olivera, 38, of the Bronx and Lisele Jackson, 54, who is a teacher and assistant principal at MS 61 in Brooklyn, allegedly purchased and traded stolen vehicles with Pinckney. In addition, Trevlyn LaTore, 35, of Hempstead is accused of operating a tagging operation out of a single-car garage at 149-19 133rd Avenue in Queens, where ring members brought cars to have their vehicle identification numbers altered or forged.

“A sweeping nine-month investigation that utilized both court-authorized wiretaps and traditional surveillance has dismantled a loosely knit auto theft ring that specializes in stealing luxury automobiles,” said Brown. “For such thieves, an automotive dealership represented the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They could leisurely window shop for the exact makes and models of the cars they wanted and then, under the cover of darkness, steal them.”

Among the victimized dealerships were several from Long Island, Brooklyn and New Jersey, as well as Hillside Honda in Jamaica, Queensboro Toyota in Woodside, Bayside Chrysler Jeep on Northern Boulevard and DiBlasi Ford in Corona.

“This successful operation is emblematic of why car thefts in New York City, including Queens, have plummeted in recent years,” said NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Pinckney was ordered held on $100,000 bail on charges including third and fourth degree grand larceny. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Co-conspirators Jimenez, who was ordered held on $50,000 bail, and Gil, ordered held on $25,000 bail, both also face up to 15 years. Jackson was reassigned from his Department of Education position, which comes with a $96,405 salary, following his release.

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