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Alleged van thieves face multiple charges: DA

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Chukuweike Emeni, also known as Emzie Snipes, was accused of being the ringleader of two separate criminal enterprises last month that involved stealing commercial vans, the Queens district attorney said.

In the first crime undertaking, it was alleged that Emeni, a Far Rockaway resident, and his suspected accomplices, Teyana Paul and Mark Thomas, cruised around eight neighborhoods throughout Queens and Nassau County for seven months to steal Econoline van parts to later resell for profit at least a dozen times, practically making a business of it, according to DA Richard Brown.

“The defendants in this case turned an illegal venture into a dedicated job,” said Brown. “They lurked in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning allegedly stealing vans, arranging meets to sell parts and even quoted prices - $100 for seats, $120 for radios.”

Emeni was charged with grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud, according to Brown and state Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo.

Emeni was arraigned on June 21 and is set to return to court on July 10. His bail was set at $210,000.

The alleged crimes occurred between July 2017 and February 2018 in Little Neck, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Flushing, and Kew Gardens in Queens as well as Freeport, Rockville Center and Long Beach in Long Island.

The criminal complaint filed by the DA’s office said Emeni, Paul and Thomas, who is from upstate New York, schemed to steal the vans and would later strip them of everything from tires, seats, bumpers, radios, car batteries, rooftops, headlights, tail lights, side panels and more.

Law enforcement officers from the Auto Crime Unit and Criminal Enterprise Division used court-authorized eavesdropping tools to overhear numerous conversations where Emeni allegedly told buyers what items he allegedly stole and the quote for each part, according to the complaint.

On Aug. 1, 2017, Emeni can be seen on video surveillance taking a 2016 white Ford minibus from a Samuel Field YMCA parking lot in Little Neck Parkway, according to Brown’s office. On Aug. 21, 2017 the van was recovered on Horace Harding Expressway missing a bumper and headlights.

In many instances, Paul, who is from Rosedale, could be seen on surveillance video driving her silver Toyota Highlander, following behind some of the stolen vans, according to the criminal complaint.

After an investigation into the crimes, Paul and Thomas were arrested on June 5 and arraigned June 6 before Queens Supreme Court Judge Toni Cimino and charged with grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy, according to the complaint. Paul was ordered to have supervised release and Thomas had bail set for $50,000. They were both ordered to return to court June 21, but the DA did not release updated information. Paul was also charged with insurance fraud.

In the insurance fraud case it was alleged that Emeni, Darnell Johnson, Paul and her sister Nadine Paul faked car collisions to collect cash for phony injuries, according to Vullo.

Investigators from the state Dept. of Financial Services Insurance Fraud Bureau were the ones to dismantle the alleged crew.

Nadine Paul and Johnson were arrested and charged with insurance fraud, attempted grand larceny, falsifying business records and conspiracy June 6, and were ordered to return to court on June 21 . Johnson, who is homeless, was held on bail for $15,000. Nadine Paul was ordered to have a supervised release.

“These defendants engineered a scheme to fraudulently enrich themselves at the cost of higher premiums for hardworking taxpayers,” said Vullo.

All of the defendants face up to seven years in prison if convicted, according to the criminal complaint.

“Every time a faked car crash insurance payment is doled out, everyone else pays too - in higher premiums. These kinds of plots to defraud will not be tolerated in Queens County,” said Brown.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

Updated 8:39 am, July 10, 2018
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