Auto Theft Ring
A Queens grand jury returned a series of indictments last week charging 11 individuals from Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island for their alleged roles in an automobile and motorcycle theft ring, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. Additionally, a single defendant accused of selling bogus inspection stickers in Queens was also indicted.
All 11 defendants were arraigned last week before Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard L. Buchter on indictments charging the individuals with grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, conspiracy and other charges. The indictments follow a 16-month joint investigation by the city Police Department’s Auto Crime Division and the DA’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau.
“In Queens County, auto theft has long been a benchmark in measuring my office’s effectiveness in combating crime,” Brown said. “I have devoted significant resources to ferreting out criminal organizations that profit from the illicit trafficking of stolen autos, auto parts and insurance fraud— and with great success.”
The investigation began in Queens after the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division looked into an Instagram page that included photographs of car rims and inspection stickers for sale. The NYPD contacted the Instagram account holder, Abad Rios, who had listed his number on the page. The communication commenced an undercover operation in which Rios allegedly sold forged state inspection stickers to an undercover detective on several occasions.
These transactions then allegedly progressed into Rios and co-defendant Kuldeep Sethi allegedly collaborating to sell stolen automobiles and motorcycles to undercover detectives, the DA said. A wiretap was then authorized that helped to unveil the alleged inner-workings of the theft ring, which stole vehicles from Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and New Jersey.
The suspects allegedly stole 45 cars and 16 motorcycles worth a combined estimated total of $500,000, the DA said. Unbeknownst to the defendants, they allegedly sold roughly 14 of the cars and six of the motorcycles to undercover investigators.
The defendants include Queens’ Samar Preet and Pierce O’Connor; Manhattan’s Eric Villanueva; Brooklyn’s Joshua Paulicelli, Jobdaniel Nunez, Abad Rios, Wilvin Espinal and Felix DeJesus; and Staten Island’s Kuldeep Sethi, Sean Ramos and Luis Rosa.