A brazen auto theft ring stole at least 5,000 cars, mainly on Long Island, over the past five years and raked in a $20 million profit, federal authorities allege. The ring, which they called the largest on the East Coast, employed a number of unusual schemes to dispose of the cars, including stripping a car of its parts, abandoning the shell and then repurchasing the shell from insurance company auctions. The cars, now with a clean title, would then be rebuilt with the stripped parts and resold.
The profits from the enterprise were so great that the two alleged ringleaders, residents of Long Island, used them to pay for luxury homes and for the purchase of a Queens shopping center and strip malls, apartment buildings, and medical offices on Long Island, reports Newsday. The leaders and nine others were charged yesterday with conspiracy to operate an illegal “chop shop,” to commit mail fraud, to launder money, and to traffic illegally in motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts.