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11 Queens men charged in international auto theft ring

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A Corona man and 10 other Queens suspects were arrested by the authorities last week on charges of running a major auto theft ring that stretched across the globe.

William Cruz, of Corona, was the ringleader of the operation that stole some 280 cars from the New York City area and sold them on the black market, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. Cruz and his crew of 20 allegedly stole the cars from dealerships by copying keys and working with employees, according to the attorney general.

The suspects were charged with enterprise corruption and face a maximum of 12 1/2 to 25 years in prison if convicted.

“Through the diligent work of the attorney general’s office and NYPD, we have successfully dismantled a sophisticated criminal network,” he said in a statement.

The joint investigation between the attorney general’s office and the police included wiretaps and surveillance of the suspects and ended with a series of raids and take-downs that netted the members from all five boroughs.

Cruz allegedly took orders from the black market and ordered the lower-ranked members of the ring with the specific thefts, according to Schneiderman. Michael Torres of Ridgewood was Cruz’s second in command and would give orders to the other thieves if Cruz became unavailable, the attorney general said.

Henry Morel and Nathaniel Urena of Brooklyn would forge title, registration and other documents so they could conceal the vehicle’s status from being listed as stolen and not reduce its resale price, Schneiderman said.

Rockaway Park siblings Dennis Aviles, who worked at Plaza Acura in Brooklyn; Joseph Aviles; and Eddie Aviles, who worked at Plaza Toyota and Lexus in Brooklyn, allegedly used their resources at the dealership to find corresponding codes for the keys for the vehicles, according to the attorney general. Vicente Abreu of Jamaica and another associate, Jose Miguel Mejia-Rodriguez, would take the codes and make the keys, Schneiderman said.

Several men, including Adam Jiminez and Edwin Mercado of Richmond Hill, acted as “steal men” and would take the cars and drive them to predetermined locations in Brooklyn and Queens for pick up, the attorney general said. Cruz allegedly shipped the dozens of vehicles to other states, including Illinois and Pennsylvania, and raked in more than $10 million, according to the attorney general.

Schneiderman said the suspected ringleader also sold six vehicles to buyers in Yemen and Afghanistan.

Edward Gomez of Corona, Tayyab Mukhta of Briarwood and Edward Terrero of Ridgewood, who the attorney general said had minimal roles in the ring, were indicted on theft charges, Schneiderman said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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