Wednesday, 22 September 2021 16:48

Auto Theft Ring Linked to Theft of More Than 225 Vehicles Busted in New York


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Ten members of an auto theft and distribution operation were indicted for their roles in the theft and/or criminal possession of 45 vehicles during a six-month period and their roles related to the theft and resale of more than 225 vehicles throughout New York City and Westchester.

New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Dermot Shea announced the indictments Sept. 21.


The 303-count indictment is a result of a two-year joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division.


“For two years, these individuals have fueled fear in our communities and taken some of peoples’ most valuable assets,” said James. “During the pandemic, they moved this operation into high gear, taking advantage of New Yorkers’ staying at home to allegedly stealing more than 45 cars in six months.


"We exhausted every avenue to track down these thieves, and today, we send a loud and clear message that we will not stand idly by as New Yorkers are burglarized. New Yorkers deserve to feel safe in their neighborhoods, and we thank the NYPD for their partnership and support in this effort.”


“This was a complex, high-tech operation that sought to weaponize every hidden vulnerability in the automotive industry from creating keys based on bootleg code lists to altering computer settings to creating a mill that furnished false registrations for altered VIN numbers,” said Shea. “Being an operation that never missed a chance to exploit vulnerability, it also turned up the volume of thefts during the pandemic, knowing that people were homebound or sick."


The investigation---dubbed “Operation Master Key,” due to the ability of the theft crews to create keys to gain access to vehicles---revealed auto theft crew members Norberto Pena Brito, 35, of Bronx; Jose Lebron Pimentel, 39, of Bronx; Edwin Hidalgo Estevez, 31, of Bronx; Dariberto Fernandez Perez, 30, of Bronx; and Hector Rivera, 52, of Bronx; were responsible for locating, stealing, altering and reselling stolen vehicles throughout New York City and Westchester.


From April 2020 to October 2020---during the months the state was shut down due to the pandemic and New Yorkers stayed at home and parked their cars for days at a time---this crew scoped out and targeted cars to steal, obtained key code information for these vehicles from unlawful websites, and...

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