N.Y. Auto Theft Ring Gets Parked; 37 Individuals Arrested to Date

December 16, 2005

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Kings Country District Attorney Charles Hynes and New York State Superintendent of Insurance Howard Mills have reported the takedown of “Operation Brownsville Auto.”

The base of this operation was an NYPD-run salvage yard in Brooklyn called Brownsville Auto Salvage. Officers from the Department’s Auto Crime Division conducted the investigation over the course of 18 months and arrested a total of 37 individuals including one mafia associate.

“The ongoing law enforcement crackdown against those who allegedly perpetrate auto insurance fraud is great news for New York’s honest consumers who for too long have had to pay higher premiums to offset this type of criminal activity,” said New York State Superintendent of Insurance Howard Mills. “I’m also proud of the substantive role the Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau was able to play during this investigation with the New York City Police Department and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.”

The investigation began in July 2004 when the NYPD leased Brownsville Auto Savage at 257 Hegeman Avenue and installed a detective to serve as proprietor. Initially, the Department legitimately obtained vehicles from insurance companies to provide inventory for the business. However, Brownsville Auto Salvage reportedly quickly earned a reputation of being open to illegal activity and as a result, car thieves and insurance scammers came in droves.

A principal subject in this takedown is Frank Rodaligo who is reportedly a known mafia associate and an auto crime specialist. He ran a “steal-to-order” business in which he employed career criminals to steal airbags from specific models of cars.

Within 18 months, the salvage yard took delivery of more than 100 cars that were stolen or fraudulently reported as stolen. If the stolen and “give up” cars were sold for parts, they would net a street value of approximately $6 million.

Most of the cars were late models, and included high end vehicles such as Cadillacs and Mercedes, but also Hondas and Nissans. The cars were stolen from the five boroughs as well as from Connecticut, New Jersey, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties. More than 20 individuals were arrested for auto theft.

“Give up” cars are fully insured vehicles whose owners conspire with “middlemen,” to commit insurance fraud. The owners would voluntarily “give up” ownership of their car to a middleman who took it to be chopped. When the owner received word that the car was dismantled, they reported it stolen to their insurance companies and collected the payment. The “give up” vehicles originated from as far away as Florida and South Carolina.

Car owners who gave up their cars include a United States Postal Worker, an accountant, an architect, a Verizon employee, a Con Edison employee, and individuals from the Department of Sanitation, Department of Education and Department of Probation.

Brownsville Auto Salvage was equipped with cameras and listening devices to document the illegal activity.

The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.

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