AG James sentences nine in Bronx auto theft ring

auto theft stealing cars
Photo Getty Images

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced on Monday that nine people have been sentenced in a massive Bronx auto theft ring. 

The attorney general’s office on March 11 said the group of defendants stole 45 cars in New York City and Westchester County from April 2020 to October 2020 and resold them across the United States and the Dominican Republic. The investigation states they targeted cars that were parked in the same spot for extended periods of time at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when many people were staying home. 

“These individuals took advantage of New Yorkers who stayed at home in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to steal some of their most valuable assets,” James said in the sentencing announcement. “Now we are bringing them to justice.” 

The attorney general’s office stated that the investigation, which took two years to complete, included “physical and covert surveillance, court-authorized wiretapping of numerous targeted phones, execution of search warrants and the recovery of surveillance video.” According to the investigation, defendants would scope out parked cars — mostly Hondas — obtain key code information from unlawful websites, create keys to break into cars and reprogram the internal computer system to disable alarms. The announcement said the theft crew would also reprogram the vehicle to stop recognizing the legal owners’ electronic keys. 

After stealing cars, the group would drive them back to “several lots” in the Bronx, where they would alter the vehicle identification numbers (VIN), forge federal certification stickers, and remove registration tags, the announcement states. One surveillance photo shared by the attorney general’s office shows the crew removing a stolen car’s windshield to change the VIN.

Surveillance footage from New York State Attorney General Letitia James' office shows a group of people removing a car's windshield to change the VIN.
Surveillance footage from New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ office shows a group of people removing a car’s windshield to change the VIN.Photo courtesy New York State Attorney General

Those sentenced are Norberto Pena Brito, Jose Lebron Pimentel, Dariberto Fernandez Perez, Hector Rivera, Willy Abreu Martinez, Jesus Cabral, Carlos Valverde, Adbul Khan, and Leticia Saldivar. Their sentences range from five years of probation to up to three years in state prison.   

This isn’t the first group to be busted on grand larceny charges in the Bronx in recent years. 

In 2021, cops arrested nine people who were allegedly part of an auto theft ring similar to this one — where a crew stole cars by rigging the automobile keys and internal system. Then, last August, a crew of six people were sentenced for stealing 54 cars, as well as cash and store merchandise all totaling $3 million. Another group was caught last October lifting luxury SUVs and shipping them to West Africa, and in December James indicted two brothers charged with 16 crimes related to theft and vehicle possession. 

But even with the high profile arrests and sentences, NYPD data shows that grand larceny auto is actually down more than 20% week-to-date from 2023 to this year. Week-to-date last year there had been 74 reported incidents, compared to 58 this year. 

“These sentences are the result of New York law enforcement’s tireless efforts to remove a highly active auto theft ring from the streets of our city,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said in the March 11 announcement. “NYPD detectives, in partnership with our colleagues on the state Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, vow to continue investigating and dismantling any such criminal operations that target innocent New Yorkers.”

Reach Camille Botello at For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes