Real-Time Hudson Valley News
An alleged auto theft ring is accused of stealing over 225 cars in the Hudson Valley and other parts of New York.
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On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced the indictment of 10 members of an auto theft and distribution operation for their alleged roles in the theft or criminal possession of 45 vehicles during a six-month period and their alleged roles related to the theft and resale of more than 225 vehicles throughout the Hudson Valley and New York City
The 303-count indictment is a result of a two-year joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division.
“For two years, these individuals have fueled fear in our communities and taken some of peoples’ most valuable assets,” James said. “During the pandemic, they moved this operation into high gear, taking advantage of New Yorkers’ staying at home to allegedly stealing more than 45 cars in six months. We exhausted every avenue to track down these thieves, and, today, we send a loud and clear message that we will not stand idly by as New Yorkers are burglarized.”
The investigation — dubbed “Operation Master Key,” due to the ability of the theft crews to create keys to gain access to vehicles — revealed auto theft crew members Norberto Pena Brito, Jose Lebron Pimentel, Edwin Hidalgo Estevez, Dariberto Fernandez Perez, and Hector Rivera were responsible for locating, stealing, altering, and reselling stolen vehicles throughout New York City and Westchester, officials say.
From April 2020 to October 2020 the group scoped out and targeted cars to steal, obtained key code information for these vehicles from unlawful websites, and created keys that allowed them to breach and steal the vehicles, police say.
Once inside of the vehicle, they allegedly reprogrammed the vehicle’s computer system to gain control of the vehicle, disable alarms, and start the engine. In a matter of minutes, the theft crew was able to steal a vehicle without sounding alarms or drawing any attention, even in a dense urban setting and the theft crew reprogramed the vehicle to stop recognizing the true owners’ electronic keys, so that the owners’ keys stopped working, according to the A.G.'s office.
Members of this organization then transported the vehicles back to one of several lots located in the Bronx, where the vehicles were altered and the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) were changed in order to give the stolen cars a new identity, officials add.
This joint investigation included hundreds of hours of physical and covert surveillance, court-authorized wiretapping of numerous targeted phones, execution of search warrants, and the recovery of surveillance video capturing the thefts of numerous vehicles.
Those charged the indictment include:
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