By Tom Momberg

A two-year investigation by the NYPD and Queens district attorney has led to the indictment of 17 individuals for their alleged participation in a major Queens auto theft and “title washing” ring, the DA announced Thursday.

“Title washing” refers to the process of salvaging a car to sell in another state that does not brand cars on its state-issued titles with changed vehicle identification numbers, so they may be sold for more than they would be in a state that requires a title to be branded as rebuilt.

In this particular ring, members of what prosecutors are calling the “steal” crew allegedly stole more than 80 high-end cars from residential streets and car dealers and resold them on the black market with washed titles with the help of other partners between February 2013 and November 2014, according to Queens DA Richard Brown.

Out of the 17 indictments, 14 of the defendants have been arrested, and still three were being sought by police, including two from Queens: Angel Acosta, 30, of Richmond Hill and Santiago Robinson, 34, of Arverne in the Far Rockaways, the DA said.

Acosta is being charged with criminal possession of stolen property and the illegal possession of a VIN, and if convicted, he would face up to seven years in prison, the DA said.

Robinson is also being charged with criminal possession of stolen property, as well as conspiracy, and if convicted, the DA said he could also face up to seven years in prison.

Other defendants from Queens include Miguel Maldonado, 34, of Woodhaven, who was allegedly a member of the “steal” crew; Onnie Canady, 52, of East Elmhurst; and Joel Urena, 34, of Edgemere in the Far Rockaways, the DA said.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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