Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

  

April 17, 2012

International luxury car theft ring smashed in Philadelphia area; 26 suspects linked to $2.3 million in stolen vehicles

Op-Wheels-of-Fortune-Shipping-Chart

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Linda Kelly and Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan today announced a series of arrests in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland involving suspects linked to an international car theft ring operating in the greater Philadelphia area.

"This was a focused and elaborate operation aimed primarily at high-end luxury cars and sport utility vehicles, often snatched from the car dealership lots or service departments in the communities around Philadelphia and then quickly loaded into shipping containers for delivery to buyers overseas," Kelly said.

"Violence - or the threat of physical harm - also played a role in this operation," Commissioner Noonan noted, "with gun point robberies, home burglaries and carjacking also used to obtain the vehicles that foreign brokers and buyers were seeking."

The investigation, known as "Operation Wheels of Fortune," was headed by troopers from the Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Unit, working with prosecutors from the Attorney General's Organized Crime Section. 

Authorities were at times assisted by the Philadelphia Police Department Major Crimes Auto Squad, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Unit-North. Evidence was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury which recommended the criminal charges that were filed today.

The investigation revealed a network of Philadelphia residents allegedly responsible for the theft of 36 vehicles between March 2011 and October 2011. 

"This group of thieves targeted dealerships in suburban Philadelphia and nearby New Jersey, typically visiting during the early morning, after the service department had opened but before the sales department and other employees had arrived," Kelly said. "Taking advantage of situations where limited service department staff were busy or distracted with customers, the thieves could search the sales area of the dealership, along with desks and counters for any unsecured keys to new cars or customer vehicles."

Noonan noted that once the thieves acquired a key, it was simply a matter of walking through the car lot while pressing the lock/unlock buttons built into most key fobs to quickly locate the target vehicle.

Op-Wheels-of-Fortune-Heirarchy"In most of these cases, dealers and customers were unaware that their keys had been stolen, giving the thieves ample opportunity to either take the vehicle immediately, or return later to drive the car off the lot," Noonan said.

The grand jury found that Qadiyr Anderson and Kyle Beckett were assisted in the theft of numerous cars by a group of seven associates, including Bryheem Beckett, Kyion Shakdior Williams, Jordan Fields, Leonard Spencer, Robert Mayes, Monte Qualls and Jerry Thomas.

Kelly said that once a car had been stolen, contact would be made with a middleman or broker who would find a potential purchaser.  Akim Lane of Folsom, Pennsylvania - also known as "Boogie" - allegedly served as a broker for cars stolen by Anderson, Beckett and their crew.

According to testimony provided to the grand jury, Lane would gather information about the make and model of the stolen car and would then instruct the thieves where to park the vehicle - often a public street in the southwestern section of Philadelphia. 

"Once a stolen car was parked in a specific location, Lane would contact a potential buyer, who could drive by and inspect the vehicle," Noonan said. "If the buyer agreed on a price, Lane would then arrange for the thief to be paid, while keeping a portion of the money for himself for brokering the deal. The keys would then be delivered to the buyer."

The investigation revealed that one group of buyers who frequently obtained stolen vehicles from Akim Lane was led by Mohamad Fornah, of Philadelphia.

"Fornah and his co-conspirators, many of whom are citizens of countries from West Africa, allegedly obtained large numbers of these stolen vehicles with the intent of shipping them out of the country for resale overseas," Kelly said.

Using various techniques, Pennsylvania State Police were able to intercept and recover 41 stolen vehicles, before and after they had been loaded into shipping containers, all bound for cargo ships that were headed to West Africa. Those vehicles, worth approximately $1.6 million, ranging in value from a 2009 Mercedes C300, worth $24,000, to a 2010 Porsche Panamera, valued at $120,000.

State Police identified nine individuals who allegedly assisted Fornah and others in the buying and shipping of stolen vehicles including Abdulai Daboh, Morris Keita, Dennis Koroma, Jameel Wilson and Umaru Sheriff-Riley, all of Philadelphia; Sheik Fofanah, of Yeadon, PA; Ibrahim Bah, of New York City; Abu Bakarr Jollah, of Gaithersburg, Maryland; Mamady Kaba, of Odenton, MD; and Ebrima Gikeneh, of Greenbelt, Maryland.

"This was a systematic and organized effort to target, steal and quickly move a massive inventory of stolen luxury cars, bound for international customers who were either unaware or did not care where the vehicles may have come from," Noonan said.

Op-Wheels-of-Fortune-ContainersKelly and Noonan noted that while most of the vehicles stolen in the Philadelphia area were obtained by stealing keys from car dealerships, investigators also located and recovered a number of other vehicles from shipping containers that had allegedly been obtained through violence or threats of violence.

"According to police records that were located after we recovered these vehicles, at least 17 were obtained through car-jackings, gun point robberies or thefts, mostly in and around Newark, New Jersey," Noonan said.

Additionally, Kelly said that at least nine other vehicles were allegedly stolen from an Avis car rental agency located near the Philadelphia airport, with at least six of those thefts allegedly linked to an employee at that business - Darrin Culler, of Newark, Delaware.

The State Police investigation also identified several other individuals accused of attempting to purchase stolen vehicles from Akim Lane, including Boubacar Diallo and Ibrahima Diallo, both from Brooklyn, New York; along with Abdul Shaw, of Darby, PA.

Kelly and Noonan noted that this remains an active and ongoing investigation into the organized theft and illegal export of stolen vehicles.

Based on information developed during the investigation of the thefts from Philadelphia area dealers, along with additional information obtained during the recovery of stolen cars and S-U-V's awaiting shipment out of the country, investigators believe these suspects are responsible for the disappearance of at least 57 vehicles, worth more than $2.3 Million.

The defendants will be prosecuted in Bucks County, Pennsylvania by Chief Deputy Attorney General Erik Olsen of the Attorney General's Organized Crime Section.

Kelly and Noonan thanked the following agencies for their assistance with this investigation and today's arrests, including: The Philadelphia Police Department, U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, New Jersey State Police, United States Marshals Service (Fugitive Task Force), Maryland State Police, New York City Police Department and the Bensalem Township (Bucks County) Police Department.

Additionally, Kelly and Noonan thanked the Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority, which supports the operation of the Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Task Forces and also provides grant funds for other law enforcement and public education efforts aimed at combating, preventing and reducing auto theft.

Investigators also thanked Thompson BMW, of Doylestown, and Don Rosen Imports, of Conshohocken, for their cooperation.

The defendants will be preliminarily arraigned before Bensalem Magisterial District Judge Joseph P. Falcone, who will schedule preliminary hearings at a later date.

A list of the defendants and the charges filed against them is included below:

Qadiyr Anderson, 22, 5334 Catherine St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft, eight counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, 20 counts of receiving stolen property, one count of criminal attempt to receive stolen property and eight counts of the unauthorized use of automobiles.

Ibrahim Bah, 36, 120 W. 116th St., New York, NY, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, four counts of receiving stolen property and four counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Bryheem Beckett, 20, 2470 77th Ave., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft, nine counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, nine counts of receiving stolen property and nine counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Kyle Beckett, 39, 7529 Limekiln Pike, Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft, 29 counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, 29 counts of receiving stolen property and 29 counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Abdulai Daboh, 28, 2543 South 71st St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, two counts of receiving stolen property and two counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Darrin Culler, 21, 5103 Winterhaven Drive, Newark, DE, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft and nine counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition.

Boubacar Diallo, 32, 220 Montgomery St., Brooklyn, NY, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property and one count of criminal attempt to receive stolen property.

Ibrahima Diallo, 26, 220 Montgomery St., Brooklyn, NY, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property and one count of criminal attempt to receive stolen property.

Jordan Fields, 21, 7216 Forrest Ave., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft, three counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, three counts of receiving stolen property and three counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Shiek Fofanah, 31, 948 W. Cobbs Creek Parkway, Yeadon, PA, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, two counts of receiving stolen property and two counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Mohamad Fornah, 25, 6617 Guyer Ave., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, 16 counts of receiving stolen property and 16 counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Ebrima Gikeneh, 42, 6021 Springhill Drive, Greenbelt, MD, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, two counts of receiving stolen property and two counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Abu Bakarr Jalloh, 29, 324 Market St., Gaithersburg, MD, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, two counts of receiving stolen property and two counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Mamady Kaba, 36, 687 Winding Stream Way, Odenton, MD, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, two counts of receiving stolen property and two counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Morris Keita, 46, 6540 Guyer Ave., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, two counts of receiving stolen property and two counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Dennis Koroma, 25, 1714 South Frazier St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, six counts of receiving stolen property and six counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Akim Lane, 31, 111 MacDade Boulevard, Folsom, PA, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft, 14 counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, 13 counts of receiving stolen property, two counts of criminal attempt to receiving stolen property and 13 counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Robert Mayes, 22, 1248 South 24th St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft, one count of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, one count of receiving stolen property and one count of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Monte Qualls, 19, 6610 Sprague St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, seven counts of receiving stolen property, seven counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition and seven counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Abdul Shaw, 27, 129 North 9th St., Darby, PA, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property and one count of criminal attempt to receive stolen property.

Umaru Sheriff-Riley, 30, 3018 South 68th Street, Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, six counts of receiving stolen property and six counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Leonard Spencer, 24, 7241 Ogontz Ave., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft, one count of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, one count of receiving stolen property and one count of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Jerry Thomas, 34, 5219 N. Warnock St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft, one count of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, one count of receiving stolen property and one count of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Kyion Williams, 20, 4901 Stenton Ave., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to commit theft, 25 counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, 25 counts of receiving stolen property and 25 counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

Jameel Wilson, 19, 2238 S. 69th St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to participate in a corrupt organization, one count of conspiracy to receive stolen property, two counts of receiving stolen property and two counts of unauthorized use of automobiles.

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty)