Eight Brooklyn men who allegedly specialized in selling everything from stolen vehicles to narcotics have been charged for their participation in a Queens theft ring, according to the Queens district attorney.
The men, ranging from 21 to 27 years of age, were indicted after a 16-month investigation that began last April and concluded this June.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, in April 2014 police officers assigned to the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division Theft Squad started a joint investigation with the District Attorney’s Rackets Bureau into a theft ring that was offering temporary paper license plates for sale on Craigslist.
An unnamed individual allegedly contacted the number listed on the Craigslist post and later met with one of the eight men, 22-year-old Ariel Santiago, in Queens. During this encounter, the individual purchased fraudulent temporary license plates packaged with accompanying documents including blank bills of sale templates, blank 30-day temporary insurance coverage conformation forms and four blank Florida temporary registration receipts each stamped with the name of an actual auto sale business.
During their meeting, the unnamed person mentioned he shipped stolen vehicles to Africa and used paper plates to transport the cars to the port. At this point Santiago allegedly said he knew people who sold high-end stolen vehicles with keys, according to authorities.
Later that month at a second meeting, the person met with Santiago again to purchase five more forged temporary plates and spoke with 21-year-old Brian Hernandez and 22-year-old Luvere Gantt about buying stolen vehicles.
Over the next month, the person bought several stolen motorcycles during a series of buys, including two Kawaski Ninjas, from Santiago, Hernandez and Gantt, and in one instance from 21-year-old Gerardo Torres.
According to the district attorney, Torres, Gantt, 27-year-old Joseph Santiago and 21-year-old Matthew Moses later variously sold narcotics, cocaine and heroin to other individuals.
It is also alleged that in addition to the other defendants, 25-year-old Sean Vargas and 21-year-old Kevin Primo were also a part of selling stolen vehicles, firearms and/or counterfeit cash.
The majority of the stolen vehicles were obtained through fraudulent means from rental car companies such as Zipcar, Hertz, Enterprise, Dollar and Budget, according to the district attorney.
“This small, loosely organized theft ring is accused of offering a cornucopia of stolen and illegal items for sale on the black market — including stolen motorcycles and such luxury vehicles as Cadillacs, Mercedes Benzes, Audis and BMWs, as well as forged license plates, narcotics, counterfeit cash and various firearms — including an assault rifle, shotgun and a defaced pistol,” Brown said.
Currently Gantt, Hernandez and Torres are being sought, while the other five suspects have been arrested.
The charges the men variously face include criminal possession of stolen property, criminal sale of a controlled substance, conspiracy, unauthorized use of a vehicle, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal sale of a firearm, criminal possession of a firearm, and criminal possession of a forged instrument.