- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
A band of high-tech car thieves used the Bronx as a staging area to steal hundreds of vehicles from New Yorkers trapped indoors during the pandemic, using bootleg computer code to spoof car owners’ electronic keys, authorities said.
State Attorney General Letitia James and the NYPD announced Tuesday they’d dismantled the ring and busted 10 suspects on a 303-count indictment.
The crew was most active between April and October of 2020, when New York City and Westchester County residents left their cars parked for days on end – ripe for the thieves to scope them out and make their move, officials said.
They used bootleg codes, found on the internet, to create their own electronic keys, then got inside and reprogramed the vehicles’ computer systems without setting off any alarms, authorities said.
Once reprogrammed, the cars wouldn’t 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 finding, stealing, altering and reselling the vehicles; at times, Pena Brito and Lebron Pimentel bought stolen cars from Carlos Valverde, authorities said.
One member of the crew, Jesus Cabral, was hired to remove and replace windshields to change the stolen cars’ VINs.
Two more suspects, Willy Abreu Martinez and Abdul Khan, were identified as “high-volume customers” who would buy the cars for resale in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.
Another member of the conspiracy, Leticia Saldivar, who owned and ran Carmela’s Multiservice and Auto Tag in Philadelphia, filed fake documents with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and got clean registrations and titles for the stolen cars, authorities charged.
Police have recovered 115 of the stolen cars, cop sources said.