AG: $10 Million International Car Theft Ring Taken Down in New York

Known more for civil enforcement as opposed to handling significant criminal prosecutions like their local District Attorney counterparts, the New York State Attorney General’s Office announced the arrest of 19 people in an international car theft ring. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, trying to step from the shadow of his incredibly popular predecessor Andrew Cuomo, announced that this alleged New York City based theft ring stole hundreds of vehicles worth in the neighborhood of $10 million. It’s alleged leader, William Cruz, determined what cars were needed on the black market and in turn advised his crew. Because prosecutors believe that Mr. Cruz and his alleged cohorts were part of a criminal enterprise with a true and viable structure, the men of this alleged gang are all being prosecuted for Enterprise Corruption.

A “B” felony, Enterprise Corruption is New York States version of the Federal RCO statute. While often utilized as a statute in the context of organized mob type crimes, as long as prosecutors can establish the existence of a criminal enterprise where the members are in an ascertainable structure sharing the same goal, then prosecutors can charge this offense. Obviously, an indictment such as this is significantly more complex than as it is described. Assuming prosecutors are successful in establishing the elements of this crime, a defendant with no record faces a minimum of one to three years and a maximum of eight and one third to twenty five years in state prison.

Although not set forth in the press release, it is likely that the members or the alleged organization will be charged with numerous counts of some or all of the following crimes: Grand Larceny, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. All felonies in the”D” range, these crimes relate to the theft of the vehicles, the possession of the stolen vehicles and the alterations of VIN numbers. If the vehicles are worth in excess of $50,000.000, then the defendants could also face “C” felonies. It is worth noting that the law permits the aggregation of values of stolen property if the victim is the same. While there is some case law that permits the aggregation where the scheme is the same as opposed to the victim, prosecutors are less likely to push the envelope for such an aggregation. Regardless, the defendants do and will have a bigger concern with the “B” felony Enterprise Corruption charge hanging over their collective heads.

The defendants are as follows:

Michael Torres, Henry Morel, Nathaniel Urena, Dennis Aviles, Joseph Aviles, Edward Aviles, Vicente Abreu (owner of Big Daddy Hardware), Jose Miguel Mejia-Rodriguez, Adam Jiminez, John Acosta, Edwin Mercado, Felix Cespedes, Aurelio Delossantos, Jesus Gonzalez and Francisco Rodriguez. While certain defendant allegedly had different roles (some located codes at a Toyota dealership to create counterfeit keys, others made the keys and some found the vehicles), these roles do not automatically mean a structure existed. Arguably, instead of having a boss, enforcers, etc., this operation could have been a more loose knit group of people as if each person was a “sub contractor.” Again, a loose knit group of friends or thieves could have a crew, but not necessarily an enterprise with structure and leadership. To that end, the Attorney General’s Office did not actually charge some of the crew members with Enterprise Corruption believing that the standards of that crime had not been met. These individuals are: Anne Acosta, Edward Gomez, Edward Terrero, Jose Perez and Tayyab Mukhta.

Extensive information on the crime of Grand Larceny as well as Enterprise Corruption can be found on the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog. There you will also find other criminal law statutes, legal decisions and analysis of cases in the news. Beyond the legal blog, the Saland Law PC website also contains detailed information on crimes in New York.

Founded by two former Manhattan Assistant District Attorneys, Saland Law PC is a criminal defense firm representing those accused of crimes throughout the New York City area.

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