2009-05-06 / Features

Nine Car Thieves Charged For Stealing Luxury Vehicles

BY LIZ GOFF

Queens detectives last week put the brakes on a ring of car thieves who stole 16 luxury SUVs from Queens dealerships.

A nine-month joint effort by detectives at the NYPD Queens Auto Crime Unit and the Queens District Attorney's Office, called "Operation Lockdown", resulted in nine arrests, including an assistant principal at a Brooklyn middle school, authorities said.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the thieves set their sights on BMW, Lincoln and Mercedes Benz SUVs each worth $400,000 and up.

The thieves focused most of their efforts on a Recon Motors storage facility in Whitestone that was not equipped with surveillance cameras, which could have helped identify them, Brown said.

According to authorities, members of the ring posed as potential buyers in order to take the luxury SUVs for a late night test drive. Once the vehicles were driven off the lot, they were never returned.

The thieves also stole vehicles by driving them through large holes they forced in chain link fences outside Queens dealerships. Allegedly the car thieves used wire cutters to make holes in the fences out of view of security guards, and simply drove the SUVs through the holes in the fences onto the street.

In still other cases, members of the ring took vehicles for legitimate test drives but failed to return the keys, returning later with the keys to drive the SUVs off the lot.

Brown said the ring members leisurely window-shopped for vehicles at nine dealerships in Queens, Brooklyn and on Long Island, checking for the makes and models they needed. The thieves removed VIN numbers from the stolen vehicles and replaced them with newly created VIN numbers prior to their sale.

Each of the nine suspects is facing a multitude of auto-related charges. The accused ring mastermind, Melvin Pinckney, 54, of Brooklyn, was held in lieu of $100,000 bail at his arraignment at Queens Criminal Court. Pinckney, along with ring members David Jiminez, 40, and Alexander Gil, 34, are facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Brooklyn Middle School Assistant Principal Lisle Jackson, 54, was released without bail and was reassigned from his position at M.S. 61.

Jackson, a 12-year city school system veteran, allegedly planned to supplement his salary by selling stolen SUVs to unwitting buyers, authorities said.

Six others arrested in the investigation face similar charges at their arraignments in Queens Criminal Court.

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