Multi-State Motorcycle Theft Ring Busted; 16 Charged with Stealing 81 Cycles

January 11, 2005

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, joined by New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and New York State Insurance Superintendent Gregory Serio, recently announced that a motorcycle theft and fencing ring comprised of 16 individuals – including fences, locators and “steal men” – that stole more than 81 imported motorcycles valued at more than $1 million from owners in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Connecticut and New Jersey has been closed down in an undercover “sting” operation.

The principal defendants have been charged in a 92-count indictment charging 118 pattern acts with, among other crimes, Enterprise Corruption under New York State’s Organized Crime Control Act. They are accused of stealing to order scores of motorcycles including expensive Bourget, Big Dog, Yamaha and Suzuki models. They are alleged to have chopped and altered the stolen motorcycles at garages in Queens County and to have sold the parts, including high-performance engines, over the Internet to purchasers, mainly Dwarf car racers, in the Mid-West, including Ohio, and California as well as to individuals in Italy, Spain and Australia.

Brown said, “The defendants may have thought they were the greatest things on two wheels but they were wiped out by a coast-to-coast law enforcement initiative. Vehicle theft – in this case motorcycle theft – and insurance fraud drive up the cost of insurance for all New Yorkers. The charges announced today send a clear message to thieves that if they wheel and deal in pirated automobile and motorcycle parts they will be apprehended, prosecuted and severely punished.”

According to Serio, “This operation gave new meaning to the term ‘hot wheels’ and illustrates how sweeping improvements in auto and motorcycle insurance fraud fighting are enabling law enforcement to stay one step ahead of even the most sophisticated criminals, trends that will result directly this year in tens of millions of dollars in auto rate premium reductions for New York’s honest consumers. I congratulate New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown for their ongoing joint efforts with the Pataki administration to combat crimes that have an enormous financial impact on all New Yorkers.”

The defendants have been variously accused of Enterprise Corruption, Burglary in the Second and Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree and Fourth Degree, Forgery of Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree. The defendants charged with Enterprise Corruption face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

The charges are the result of a nine-month joint undercover investigation by the New York City Police Department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau Auto Crime Division, the Queens District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau and the New York State Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau.

The investigation, which included the use of sophisticated court authorized electronic surveillance, was conducted in cooperation with the NYPD’s Computer Crimes Squad, Police Departments in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Los Angeles, Sacramento, State Police in Columbus County, Ohio, the District Attorney’s offices in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and with the assistance of Forward Air, Incorporated, a shipping company based in Groveport, Ohio.

Authorities began the investigation in March of last year when a motorcycle owner residing in the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood, Queens reported to police that he recognized parts of his motorcycle, which had been stolen from the driveway next to his home, being offered for sale on e-Bay. His complaint was forwarded by the case detective to the NYPD’s Auto Crimes Division which launched a wider investigation in conjunction with the Queens District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau and the New York State Insurance Department Insurance Frauds Bureau.

It is alleged that the defendants and others were members and associates of a “Motorcycle Theft and Fencing Ring,” an organized criminal enterprise based in Queens County that illicitly operated in the New York metropolitan area and burglarized homes and stole motorcycles from their owners in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

It is further alleged that the criminal enterprise consisted of fences, locators and “steal men” who stole motorcycles from the street and from private homes and drove or hauled them by van back to garages at 70-17 Main Street and 43-16 194th Street in Flushing and 7-15 154th Street in Whitestone. At the garages, it is alleged, the stolen motorcycles were chopped up, identifying numbers on the parts altered, the parts photographed for Internet sale and then packaged for shipment to purchasers, chiefly Dwarf car enthusiasts, in Columbus, Ohio and Sacramento and Los Angeles in California, as well as to individuals in Italy, Spain and Australia.

It is additionally alleged that defendants Christos Demetroules and Michael Kontos were the driving force behind the burglaries and thefts. They are alleged to have sold stolen motorcycles and their parts on the Internet and to have brokered other stolen motorcycles which they did not sell themselves to alleged fences Robert Fili and Eric Kohler who, in turn, allegedly sold the stolen motorcycle parts over the Internet.

According to the charges, defendant Alessandro DelGiornio, an employee of Boro Waste, a private carting company, would haul away for disposal the discarded frames left from the dismantled motorcycles. Defendants Josue Caratini, Jose Hernandez, Andre Ahgob, Adam Alvarez, Gerard Beauchamp and Philip Serrano were allegedly employed by the ring as “steal men.”

It is alleged that defendants Demetroules, Kontos, Fili and Kohler – the accused fences – determined which motorcycle models were marketable over the Internet and directed the “steal men” to obtain them and deliver them to specified locations. The “steal men” would then allegedly spot motorcycles around the tri-state area, copy their license plate numbers, or receive the license plate numbers from Demetroules or Kontos, obtain from insurance brokers for a $15 fee the owner’s name and home address and then go to the owner’s residence and steal the motorcycle.

It is alleged that the “steal men” would sell the stolen motorcycles to the fences for up to $2,500 each and that the fences would sell the engines alone for up to $2,500 and other motorcycle parts for up to $5,000.

Among the motorcycles allegedly stolen by the ring were:

-a 2003 Suzuki motorcycle valued at $9,000 reported stolen on June 27, 2004 in Virginia Beach, Virginia by its owner, a United States Navy Petty Officer Second Class;

-a 2003 GSXR 1000 motorcycle valued at $10,000 reported stolen on October 12, 2004 from a private home in Suffolk County by its owner, a United States Army Staff Sergeant;

-a 2004 Harley Davidson “Fat Boy” motorcycle valued at $25,000 reported stolen on September 22, 2004 from a private home in Flushing by its owner, an attorney.

Detectives executed eight court-authorized search warrants on Oct. 20 and 21, 2004 at the garages in Flushing and Whitestone and the homes of Demetroules, Kontos, Fili and Kohler and recovered $169,000 in cash, several computers allegedly containing records of the ring’s Internet sales transactions and numerous stolen motorcycles, stolen motorcycle engines and other parts, two stolen automobiles as well as tools used to dismantle vehicles and alter their identifying numbers.

Additionally, NYPD Auto Crime Division detectives coordinated with investigators in Ohio and California the execution of 15 “sneak and peak” search warrants. The warrants allowed law enforcement officers to covertly open packages containing stolen engines shipped by the alleged fences, photograph the engines and their identifying numbers, reseal the packages and forward them to their intended destinations, enabling the investigation to continue.

Brown noted that Dwarf cars are modeled after cars manufactured circa 1948, are approximately six feet long and five feet wide and are powered by motorcycle engines. They cost about $10,000 to build and are used for oval track racing, popular throughout rural America. Government does not regulate ownership and operation of Dwarf cars, and so they are not subject to annual safety inspection or other government scrutiny, making them a lucrative outlet for stolen motorcycle engines.

Defendant information:

1 Christos Demetroules, 34, Flushing
2 Allessandro DelGiornio, 30, Flushing
3 Michael Kontos, 35, College Point
4 Robert Fili, 32, of Flushing
5 Eric Kohler, 32, New York City
6 Josue Caratini, 29, Long Island City
7 Jose Hernandez, 32, Bayswater
8 Andre Ahgob, 28, incarcerated inmate Rikers Island
9 Adam Alvarez, 33, Brooklyn
10 Gerard Beauchamp, 31, Brooklyn
11 Philip Serrano, 30, Elmont, New York
12 Eric Nieves, 31, Brooklyn
13 Jamie Denton, 30, Great Neck, New York
14 Freddy Feliciano, 33, Maspeth
15 Angel Badillo, 32, Brooklyn
16 Paris Gonzalez, 34, Ridgewood.

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