A group of high-tech car thieves used the Bronx as a staging area to steal hundreds of vehicles from New Yorkers trapped inside during the pandemic, using hacked computer code to spoof car owners’ electronic keys , the authorities said.
State Attorney General Letitia James and the NYPD announced on Tuesday that they had dismantled the ring and arrested 10 suspects on an indictment of 303 counts.
The crew was most active between April and October 2020, when residents of New York City and Westchester County left their cars parked for days – ripe for thieves to find them and move on, said officials.
They used pirate codes, found on the internet, to create their own electronic keys, then entered inside and reprogrammed the vehicles’ computer systems without setting off any alarms, authorities said.
When reprogrammed, cars would not recognize their owners’ old keys. The crew then drove the stolen vehicles to several lots in the Bronx.
Suspects Norberto Pena Brito, Jose Lebron Pimentel, Edwin Hidalgo Estevez, Dariberto Fernandez Perez and Hector Rivera were responsible for the discovery, theft, modification and resale of the vehicles; Sometimes Pena Brito and Lebron Pimentel bought stolen cars from Carlos Valverde, authorities said.
A crew member, Jesus Cabral, was hired to remove and replace windshields to change the VINs of stolen cars.
Two other suspects, Willy Abreu Martinez and Abdul Khan, have been identified as “high-volume customers” who would buy the cars for resale in the United States and the Dominican Republic.
Another member of the conspiracy, Leticia Saldivar, who owned and ran Carmela’s Multiservice and Auto Tag in Philadelphia, filed false documents with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and obtained clean registrations and titles for the stolen cars, accused the authorities.
Police recovered 115 of the stolen cars, according to police sources.