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Luxury vehicle car theft ring in Queens busted; more than a dozen arrested

More than a dozen people were charged with a large-scale car theft ring in Queens, the district attorney's office said on Thursday.

The 17 defendants, three of which were still on the run Thursday, are indicted on charges of stealing luxury vehicles and changing the VIN's. The car brands include BMW's, Range Rovers and Mercedes-Benz.

The scam went like this: the suspected defendants would allegedly canvas for a luxury car, use the VIN to make a duplicate key and then take the car. The cars would then be sold through a black market dealer with "clean" papers. This happened between February 2013 and November 2014.

In some instances, the Queens district attorney's office said, they would steal a vehicle "to order," meaning the car had been requested by a customer. 

"Here in Queens County auto theft has long been a benchmark in measuring our effectiveness in combating crime," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. "I have devoted significant resources to ferreting out criminal organizations that profit from the illicit trafficking in stolen autos, auto parts and insurance fraud -- and with great success."

They were charged with a slew of offenses, including enterprise corruption, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

Many of the stolen vehicles were then apparently transported throughout the country, including to California, Arizona and Florida. Some were even shipped internationally, including to Nigeria and the Dominican Republic, the DA's office said.

Brown said there has been about a 95.4% decrease in car thefts from 1991 (when 52,000 cars were stolen) to last year. 

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