New York City Police Department

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Press Release | NO. 2005-001

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Thursday, January 6, 2005

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly Announces 13 Arrests In The Takedown Of A Motorcycle Theft Ring

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today announced the arrest of 13 members of a motorcycle theft ring. The ring utilized swift turnarounds and the Internet as the key components in their operation. The ring was so prolific that when officers made arrests this morning, two suspects had a freshly stolen motorcycle in their van. The investigation was carried out by members of the Auto Crime Division with assistance from Police Departments in Ohio and California, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties in New York.

The theft ring focused on high-performance motorcycles of recent vintage. The crew's specialty was to steal a motorcycle and dismantle it for resale within a few days. When the vehicles were reduced to pieces, the thieves would sell the various parts without serial numbers on popular Internet auction sites.

Engine blocks stamped with a serial number were usually sold on sites catering to "dwarf car" racing. Dwarf cars are 5/8th the size of regular vehicles and are powered by motorcycle engines. Racing these vehicles is popular in California and other states where the events take place on privately owned tracks. In dwarf car racing, the engines work to their limit and their lifespan can be as short as a week. The engines are expensive disposable parts.

Police Commissioner Kelly said: "The speed and savvy this group of criminals used was overcome by the skill of the Auto Crime Division detectives. Beginning with no more than an Internet nickname, our investigative professionals built an entire case against a crew that worked in the shadows. The officers used their street smarts as well as their technological know-how and in the end, got the goods on a crew
responsible for numerous motorcycle thefts. Thank you all for your excellent work."

This investigation was initiated when a Queens resident reported a stolen motorcycle to the 104th Precinct Detective Squad. After reporting the theft, the victim returned home and began to search online for a similar bike. To his amazement, he identified parts for sale from his own motorcycle. There was small but distinctive scratch on the gas tank that clearly distinguished it as a part from his bike.

The Auto Crime Division went to work contacting the seller of the stolen parts through his online ID. Officers soon arranged the purchase of two stolen motorcycle engines. The detectives developed a complete picture of the group and traced their activities around the country. Police in Ohio and California intercepted shipments using local warrants to identify stolen motors and documented them with digital photographs.

The ring included thieves who stole the motorcycles and they received critical information from "locators," innocents employed at a driving school and an insurance brokerage office. The thieves spotted prospective bikes and noted the license plate numbers. They then duped locators into running the plates to determine the owners' information and most importantly, where the motorcycle was registered.

Most often late at night, the thieves swooped in and stole the motorcycles from the owners' residences. In fact, while investigators waited this morning at crew member Jose Hernandez's home at 10-38 Bay 32nd Street in the 101st Precinct, they saw a white van approaching. The van's driver spotted the police officers and attempted to screech away. However, the detectives successfully intercepted the getaway and discovered that Hernandez was not alone in the van. Along for the ride was Quincy Pringle and a stolen 2004 Honda CBR 1000. The theft was so recent that the owner had not yet reported the motorcycle stolen.

The stolen bikes were dismantled at two different locations and the parts were stored in one of four separate facilities. The group also kept a driver from a private garbage company on their payroll to cart away the scrap pieces.

The separate parts and the engines landed with the four "fencemen." These individuals, who are also the group's leaders, employed a variety of web sites and Internet identifications to sell their stolen wares. The entire process from steal to sale and disposal would happen within days.

Officers served 26 search warrants where they seized more than $160,000 in cash, 90 motorcycles engines, 9 motorcycles, a large assortment of motorcycles parts, 9 computers, an RV and 5 cars. The ringleaders are
Chris Demetrolus, Robert Fili, Mike Kontos and Eric Kohler, a New York City fireman.

This investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.


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