Attorney General James and NYPD Commissioner Shea tear down auto theft ring linked to the theft of more than 225 vehicles

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10 people charged with roles in vehicle theft and resale in New York and Westchester

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Dermot Shea today announced the indictment of 10 members of a car theft and distribution operation for their roles in the theft and / or criminal possession of 45 vehicles over a six-month period and their roles in the theft and resale of over 225 vehicles in New York City and Westchester. The 303-count indictment is the result of a two-year joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the NYPD Motor Crime Division .

“For two years, these people have fueled fear in our communities and taken some of people’s most precious possessions,” said Attorney General James. “During the pandemic, they took this operation to the next level, taking advantage of New Yorkers staying at home for allegedly stealing more than 45 cars in six months. We have exhausted all means to hunt down these thieves and today we send a loud and clear message that we will not stand idly by while New Yorkers are robbed. New Yorkers deserve to feel safe in their neighborhood, and we thank the NYPD for their partnership and support in this effort. “

“This was a complex, high-tech operation that aimed to arm every hidden vulnerability in the auto industry, from creating keys based on lists of contraband codes to changing computer settings into going through the establishment of a factory providing fake registrations for changed VIN numbers, “said Shea, NYPD Commissioner. “Being an operation that never missed an opportunity to exploit vulnerability, it also increased the volume of thefts during the pandemic, knowing people were homebound or sick. I would like to thank investigators from the NYPD Motor Crime Division, as well as prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office Organized Crime Task Force for recognizing the seriousness and complexity of this case and for building a solid pursuit. “

The investigation – dubbed “Operation Master Key”, due to the ability of flight crews to create keys to access vehicles – revealed car theft team members Norberto Pena Brito, Jose Lebron Pimentel, Edwin Hidalgo Estevez, Dariberto Fernandez Perez and Hector Rivera were responsible for locating, stealing, modifying and reselling stolen vehicles in New York and Westchester.

From April 2020 to October 2020 – during the months the state was closed due to the pandemic and New Yorkers stayed home and parked their cars for days – this team scouted and targeted the cars to steal, obtained key code information for these vehicles from illegal websites and created keys that allowed them to breach and steal the vehicles. Once inside the vehicle, they reprogrammed the vehicle’s computer system to take control of the vehicle, disable the alarms and start the engine. Within minutes, the team of thieves managed to steal a vehicle without raising an alarm or attracting attention, even in a dense city environment. The flight team was also able to reprogram the vehicle to no longer recognize the owners ‘real electronic keys, so the owners’ keys stopped working.

Members of this organization then transported the vehicles to one of the many lots located in the Bronx, where the vehicles were changed and the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) were changed to give the cars a new identity. stolen. Jesus Cabral was hired to remove and replace windshields and to change the VINs of vehicles assigned by the manufacturer. Sometimes Norberto Pena Brito and Jose Lebron Pimentel also bought stolen cars from Carlos Valverde. Subsequently, the crew members sold the stolen cars to their customers, including Willy Abreu Martinez and Abdul Khan, who were two of the big customers buying the stolen cars for resale in the United States and the Dominican Republic. Leticia Saldivar – the owner and operator of Carmela’s Multiservice and Auto Tag in Philadelphia, Pa. – was recruited to obtain, organize and file fictitious vehicle documents with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and obtained proper registrations and titles for stolen vehicles.

This joint investigation included hundreds of hours of physical and covert surveillance, court-authorized wiretaps of numerous targeted phones, the execution of search warrants and the recovery of surveillance video capturing the thefts of numerous vehicles.

The 303-count indictment – unsealed today in the Bronx County State Supreme Court – charges the 10 people with multiple counts of criminal possession of stolen property in the second and third degrees (class C and D crimes), grand larceny in the third degree (crime class D), offering of a fake first degree classification instrument (class E crime), criminal possession of a counterfeit instrument in the second degree ( class D felony), fourth and fifth degree conspiracy (class E felony and class A misdemeanor) and the related charges of conspiracy to steal, possess and sell 45 stolen vehicles, as well as conspiracy to register cars stolen in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by filing false vehicle documents.

If found guilty, the defendants Carlos Valverde and Leticia Saldivar each face a maximum of seven years in prison. The other defendants face a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Those charged in today’s unsealed indictment include:

NORBERTO PENA BRITO – 35, Bronx, NY
JOSE LEBRON PIMENTEL – 39, Bronx, NY
EDWIN HIDALGO ESTEVEZ – 31, Bronx, NY
DARIBERTO FERNANDEZ PEREZ – 30, Bronx, NY
HECTOR RIVERA – 52, Bronx, NY
JESUS ​​CABRAL – 55, Waterbury, CT
WILLY ABREU MARTINEZ – 39, Bronx, NY
ABDUL KHAN – 35, Bronx, NY
CARLOS VALVERDE – 33, Bronx, NY
LETICIA SALDIVAR – 37, Waterford Works, NJ

The charges against the accused are only charges and the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The charges in the indictment are the result of a joint investigation by the OCTF of the BVG and the Auto Crime division of the NYPD. The OAG would like to thank the Yonkers Police Department; Pennsylvania State Police; the Reading City Police Department in Pennsylvania; Lancaster City Police Bureau, Pennsylvania; the Massachusetts State Police; the New Jersey State Police; Miami-Dade Metro Police Department; United States Customs and Border Protection; US Department of Homeland Security investigations; US Marshals New York / New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force; the Vermont Motor Vehicle Division; the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; the New York Department of Motor Vehicles; the National Insurance Crime Control Bureau; and the National Automotive Service Task Force for their valuable participation in this survey.

The investigation was jointly conducted by Detective Daniel Fox of the NYPD Auto Crime Division and Detective David Walsh of the OAG OCTF. Detective Fox is under the supervision of Lt. Jorge Rodriguez and the general supervision of Assistant Inspector Robert LaPollo. Detective Walsh is under the supervision of supervising detective Bradford Miller and the general supervision of Deputy Chief John McManus of the OAG’s Bureau of Investigations. The OAG’s Office of Investigations is headed by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folks.

The case is being pursued by the OCTF Deputy Deputy Attorney General of the OAG, Ann Lee, with the assistance of Legal Support Analyst Stephanie Tirado, both under the supervision of the OCTF Deputy Head of Downstate , Lauren Abinanti. Special thanks to Assistant Deputy Attorney General Caitlin Carroll and former Special Advisor Shanon LaCorte. Nicole Keary is the Deputy Attorney General responsible for OCTF. Both the Bureau of Investigations and the OCTF are part of the Criminal Justice Division. The Criminal Justice Division is headed by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.


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