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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Car-theft ring splits - Dirty cop pressures breakaway rogues

Car-theft ring splits - Dirty cop pressures breakaway rogues
published: Monday | February 11, 2008

This is part two of a story first published yesterday in The Sunday Gleaner, exposing a multimillion-dollar car-stealing network involving the police, that led to the disappearance of businessman Oliver Duncan, 35, and Kemar Walters, a 20-year-old mechanic apprentice. Both men were accosted by policemen on December 23, 2004 at a plaza on Washington Boulevard in St Andrew, and have been missing since.

Although original members of the car-stealing ring wanted to expose a police investigator and his colleagues, who were accomplices, the ringleader would have none of it; he believed that having the cops around meant additional security. In addition, the police's connections at the Inland Revenue Department were vital to the car-stealing activities.

One of the body repairmen in the car-stealing ring, who was not in agreement with the policemen's involvement, subsequently left the group, taking along with him two accomplices - a car alarm technician and a locksmith. The body repairman also made good on the relationship that he had established with the clients of the illegal ring. He took a large portion of the market with him, putting a huge dent in the profits of the leader of the car-stealing network, which was spread across the island. Furthermore, the ringleader was now forced to pay the body repairman for his services of changing chassis numbers on motor vehicles.

The body repairman, who originated from the wider Olympic Gardens/Molynes Road area of St Andrew, had met the leader of the car-stealing ring and joined it during frequent visits to Kitson Town, St Catherine, in the late 1990s.

Double life

The head of the breakaway car-stealing group soon purchased a Toyota Hiace minibus in his common-law wife's name and used it to transport the disassembled vehicle parts. He was quiet, non-confrontational and a dedicated family man. His relatives had no clue of the secret life that he led.

He and his accomplices continued to evade the law while wreaking havoc throughout the island, sometimes not coming home for days. In the process, the body repairman added a cousin from St Mary to his crew. The cousin had spent a number of years in the United States before fleeing that country after his suspected involvement in a number of drug-related incidents and electronic fraud.

The sudden departure of key members of his outfit angered the ringleader and his friend, the police investigator. They decided that the only way to reclaim control of the car-stealing market was to get rid of his former accomplice - the body repairman - who had set up a competing criminal enterprise. An anonymous tip to the police about him led to the crooked police investigator spearheading an investigation against his one-time accomplice. He began to frequent the body repairman's home every time a car was reported missing.

This continued until the police investigator seized the Hiace minibus and charged the body repairman's common-law wife with receiving stolen goods, unlawful possession and conspiracy. This, however, did not deter the body repairman, who continued to make millions of dollars from his illegal activities. Not all the vehicles stolen were scrapped; many were sold to unsuspecting buyers. The body repairman was considered an expert at changing chassis numbers, a skill which benefited the ringleader of the car-stealing network, and later himself.

Beginning of the end

When in late 2003 the body repairman stole a motor car that belonged to a prominent Jamaican political figure, it was the beginning of the end for him. The politician, who was deeply involved in drug running in Portland and St Mary in the late 1990s, as well as the trafficking of illegal drugs throughout the Caribbean and North America, placed a $1.5 million bounty on the head of the body repairman. The politician also placed another large sum for information on the whereabouts of his prized car. Some of his friends in the Jamaica Constabulary Force were also asked to assist in recovering the vehicle.

With a bounty on his head the repairman decided to lie low for a while, and hid a number of his more prized stolen units at another location in the Molynes Road area of St Andrew.

With the body repairman lying low, his crony - the car alarm technician - took charge of the illicit operations. Things got ugly between the two when on December 21, 2004, the latter turned up with a Toyota sedan that he, unknowingly, stole from an auto parts dealer who secretly did business with the body repairman.

The latter ordered the technician to return the vehicle but he refused, so the vehicle had to be forcibly taken from him and returned to the owner.

The angry accomplice threatened to expose his boss - the body repairman - to police friends; but the boss countered that he knew thugs and could point them to where the accomplice lived.

Tomorrow: Showdown on Washington Boulevard.

Crime line

1990s: Organised Crime Unit stumbles on car-stealing operation in Golden Spring, St Andrew.

2001: Police team accepts money offered by suspected car thieves in the Forest Hills area of St Andrew and releases them.

2002-2004: Policeman regularly visits leader of car-stealing ring in prison.

2003: Breakaway car-stealing ring steals motor car of high-profile politician.

2004: Renegade car thief steals motor car owned by crooked client of his boss.

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