Eighteen people, including five from Queens, have been charged in connection with an alleged luxury auto theft ring that authorities say has been broken up following an 18-month investigation.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, in a joint statement with state officials, said the ring allegedly stole 48 high-end vehicles with an approximate total value of $2.4 million.
The vehicles involved included a Bentley convertible valued at $196,000; a Mercedes-Benz with a sticker price of about $105,000; plus Audis, BMWs, Range Rovers Jeep Grand Cherokees and a Porsche Panamera.
Kelly said the investigation also led to charges against one of the defendants and two others on drug-related charges.
“The defendants in this case, dubbed Operation Title Wave, brazenly shopped for high-end luxury vehicles as orders from their criminal cohorts were places — plucking automobiles right out of dealerships,” Brown said.
He said each member of the group had a “specialized role” in the operation, with people who stole the cars and brought them to brokers; taggers who furnished vehicle identification number stickers and license plates before the brokers sold them on the black market; title washers who provided phoney paperwork; and dealers who sold the vehicles both in New York City and out of state.
Some of the cars allegedly were stolen to order, with thieves on the lookout for particular makes and models. Kelly said the thieves used GPS technology to track some of the vehicles.
Those arrested include Albert Natanov, 29, and Eytan Koun, 44, of Flushing; Ronald Dalonzo, 48, of Astoria; Franklin Bruce, 37, of Cambria Heights; as well as Emmanuel Mateo, 35, Alexander Santiago, 37, Henry Pena, 35, Victor Pacheco, 34 and Frank Fratello Jr., 43, of the Bronx, all of whom have been charged with enterprise corruption and face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Others charged include Raphael Chuan, 29, of Flushing; Shlomo Koun, 22, of Brooklyn; Michael Casado, 22, of the Bronx; Eladio Otero, 72 and Ricardo Chuevas, 35, of Manhattan; Kelvin Morel, 24, of Edgewater, NJ; and Carlos Rodriguez, 30, whose address was unavailable.
Brown said depending on their charges they faced between seven and 15 years in prison.
Property seized as a result of search warrants allegedly included more than $214,000 in cash and bank accounts, a 2004 Lamborghini and a 2012 Mercedes-Benz.
Many of the vehicles allegedly were stolen directly from car dealerships in Queens, Manhattan and Westchester, as well as Connecticut and New Jersey.
The majority of the vehicles had a value in excess of $50,000. Mateo is suspected of taking nine vehicles in one heist that were worth approximately $750,000.
Brown said that during the course of the investigation, law enforcement learned that Natanov also allegedly operated a drug trafficking ring along with Raymond O’Connell, 28, and Anthony Carrington, 41, whose addresses were unavailable.
Brown’s statement said law enforcement seized more than 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, of cocaine upon its delivery from California. Its street value was estimated at more than $1 million.
The three were “variously charged” with conspiracy, sale of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a controlled substance.