FIVE DEFENDANTS CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH INTERSTATE CAR THEFT RING
Published 6:33 am Thursday, January 27, 2022
NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced today that KEINAN CHAPMAN, age 39, a resident of Atlanta, Georgia; GREGORY BUTLER, age 37, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana; TAWUAN SYLVESTER, age 46, a resident of Marrero; JONATHAN BUSH, age 35, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana; and AARON THIBODEAUX, age 36, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, were charged in a multi-count indictment with conspiring to sell stolen cars after they were transported across state lines in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy), 18 U.S.C. § 2313 (sale and transportation of stolen cars), and 18 U.S.C. § 511 (altering vehicle identification numbers). The indictment was returned on December 10, 2021. The indictment was unsealed on January 18, 2022, following the arrest of the defendants.
The indictment also alleges that the defendants stole cars from car dealerships and rental car facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. After stealing the cars, the defendants retitled the cars under fraudulent Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINS) with the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles. Once the cars were retitled and cloned with fraudulent VINS, the defendants then resold the cars to buyers in the New Orleans metro area at discounted prices.
The indictment charges CHAPMAN in counts 1, 5, and 9. BUTLER is charged in counts 1,7-10. SYLVESTER is charged in counts 1-3. BUSH is charged in counts 1-4, and 6. THIBODEAUX is charged in counts 1-3, and 6. 18 U.S.C. § 371 carries a term of imprisonment of up to five years. 18 U.S.C. § 2313 carries a term of imprisonment of up to ten years. 18 U.S.C. § 511 carries a term of imprisonment of up to five years. Each count also carries a fine of up to $250,000, a term of supervised release of up to three years, and a mandatory $100 special assessment fee.
“We are grateful to our federal and state law enforcement partners for their continued efforts to reduce interstate car theft related crimes in the Eastern District of Louisiana and elsewhere,” said U.S. Attorney Evans.
“Organized retail crime can have a devastating, far-reaching financial impact on our community. This alleged vehicle theft ring is estimated to have cost retailers and private citizens millions in losses,” said HSI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge David Denton. “These indictments are the result of the hard work and collaboration between HSI agents and our trusted law enforcement partners. Together, we will work to ensure those involved in this scheme are investigated and brought to justice.”
“Over the last two years, LSP Investigators have worked diligently alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to identify and recover several millions worth of stolen vehicles across the Gulf South”, said Colonel Lamar Davis, Louisiana State Police Superintendent. “The success of this operation exemplifies the dedication of our personnel and the strength of our collaborative efforts to ensure public safety.”
U.S. Attorney Evans reiterated that an indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendants must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Louisiana State Police in investigating this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Spiro G. Latsis and Jon Maestri are in charge of the prosecution.