Apple to the Core

Auto Theft Ring included a McQueen Cadillac

Seven people were indicted by a Denver grand jury Tuesday and are accused of participating in a sophisticated car and insurance theft ring dating back three years.

One of the cars allegedly stolen was a 1959 Cadillac convertible that was valued at $133,320 and belonged to the actor Steve McQueen.

The convertible was featured in the MacGyver television series, according to the Denver district attorney's office.

As part of the operation, the ring's members rented expensive cars, reported them stolen and changed the vehicle identification numbers before selling them to cohorts, according to the indictment.

The accomplices then allegedly insured the vehicles and reported them stolen a second time so they could obtain the insurance money.

Detectives believe more than $700,000 was stolen from car rental agencies, insurance firms and other victims, according to prosecutors.

The 25-count indictment was handed down after detectives from the Denver, Lakewood and Broomfield police departments and the National Insurance Crime Bureau launched an investigation into the operation months ago, the district attorney's office said.

The indictment charged the alleged ringleader, Jeffrey Earle Piper, 44, with violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act; five counts of aggravated motor vehicle theft; 11 counts of theft by receiving; two counts of theft; conspiracy to commit theft by receiving; conspiracy to commit theft; conspiracy to commit aggravated motor vehicle theft; and identity theft.

Other alleged participants of the operation include:

*Stephanie Jimenez, 41, who was charged with violating the Organized Crime Control Act; conspiracy to commit theft; theft by receiving; and aggravated motor vehicle theft.

*Michael Smajd, 43, who was charged with conspiracy to commit theft; theft by receiving; aggravated motor vehicle theft; and possession of a controlled substance.

*William Stack, 51, who was charged with conspiracy to commit theft; theft by receiving; and aggravated motor vehicle theft. Stack was released from jail on bond.

*Tracy Rudisel, 42, who was charged with conspiracy to commit theft; theft by receiving; aggravated motor vehicle theft; and theft. Rudisel also was released from jail on bond.

*Michelle Winkler, 42, who was charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated motor vehicle theft and aggravated motor vehicle theft.

*Jeremy Lawhon, 34, who was charged with being in possession of a controlled substance.

Piper and Jimenez remain in custody. Detectives are still searching for Smajd, Lawhon and Winkler, the district attorney's office said.

Source: The Rocky Mountain News

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