Queens man among seven busted in citywide vehicle forgery scheme: DA

By Emily Davenport

A Queens man was among seven who were busted for participating in a years-long vehicle forgery ring throughout the five boroughs and Long Island, prosecutors announced Jan. 9.

Christopher Pandiani, 28, was charged with enterprise corruption, fifth-degree conspiracy, second-degree forgery and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.

The following men were also charged in connection to the scheme:

Andrew Pandiani, 32, of Staten Island, the boss of the operation

Solomon Zaheer, 30, of Brooklyn, a driver

Joseph Alergio, 42, of Staten Island, the manager

James “Jimmy” Napolitano, 29, of Staten Island, a driver

Maurice Brown, 37, of Suffolk County, a black market dealer

Jay Thomas, 38, of Suffolk County, a black market dealer

Each defendant was charged with varying degrees of conspiracy, forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, money laundering and enterprise corruption. If convicted, the defendants face four and a half to 25 years in prison.

“The individuals charged in this indictment are accused of setting up their own illicit business — complete with a payroll and forgery-machines installed within vehicles for quick delivery and printing on-demand,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “These fraudulent documents are commonly used to disguise stolen autos and this black market business allows buyers to cheat the system. My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to break up crews that set up illegal enterprises in our community.”

According to charges, as early as July 2015, Andrew Pandiani set prices for forged temporary license plates, registrations and other documents to buyers throughout New York City and Long Island. Alergio, as manager, assisted with price-setting, acting as a liaison between the boss and the drivers and customers and, at times, delivered plates to customers.

Christopher Pandiani, along with Zaheer and Napolitano, allegedly operated as a driver in the scheme, and delivered forged license plates to customers in cars outfitted with a printer and specialized printing paper. As a driver, they also allegedly made daily deliveries, cashed out nightly and were paid weekly.

Brown and Thomas allegedly communicated with Andrew Pandiani to buy discounted forged plates and then re-sold them to Long Island customers for a profit.

Pandaini would allegedly make cash deposits of no more than $9,999 into different bank accounts in order to avoid the bank requirement of reporting deposits in excess of $10,000 to the federal government.

Charges say that the indictment and arrests began after members of the NYPD’s Auto Crime Unit spotted Craig’s List advertisements for New Jersey temporary license plates and vehicle registrations. Undercover officers contacted the seller and allegedly successfully purchased fraudulent vehicle identification documents and other material.

Police used court-authorized eavesdropping tools to intercept calls made and received by Andrew Pandiani, the boss of a company called Verrazano Collision Specialists LLC, which was proven to be a shell company that was never registered or licensed by the state. The “business” allegedly produced forged temporary license plates, insurance documents and other fraudulent auto-related paperwork.

“Today’s charges show that criminals often believe they can operate in plain sight, with apparent impunity,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill. “The NYPD and our law enforcement partners exist to shatter that notion. I commend and thank the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the hardworking members of our NYPD Auto Crime unit for their professionalism and dedication to this investigation – which is now bringing justice to these seven individuals.”

Reach reporter Emily Davenport by e-mail at edavenport@qns.com or by phone at (718) 224-5863 ext. 236.