Fourth man pleads guilty to role in auto theft racketeering case

A New Orleans man pleaded guilty to his part in an auto theft racketeering case on Monday (June 20), bringing to four the number of people to have confessed to involvement in the ring authorities say accounted for almost one third of vehicle thefts in Jefferson Parish in recent years.

Ronnel A. Kyles, 29, pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to commit theft and one count of theft in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence. He was among the 13 men charged by a grand jury on May 5 in connection with the ring tied to approximately 32 percent of vehicle thefts in the parish in 2014 and 2015, amounting to at least $2.5 million in economic loss, according to the indictment.

Vehicles, primarily pickup trucks, allegedly were stolen for several reasons. In some cases, enterprise members allegedly transferred vehicle identification numbers to wrecked, inoperable or salvaged trucks with little or no value that were legally purchased to vehicles that were stolen.

In other instances, enterprise members allegedly stole vehicles for parts. The stolen vehicles were sold for scrap based on the weight or simply abandoned, according to the indictment.

Kyles’ role included designating vehicles to be stolen, transporting other enterprise members to steal them and stealing the vehicles. He specifically pleaded guilty to being one of three members who stolen a 2006 Ford F250 pickup between April 16, 2015 and April 17, 2015. The charge was theft involving a vehicle valued at between $5,000 and $25,000.

Judge Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Kyles to 10 years for each of the three counts and ran them concurrently, for a total of 10 years.

Kyles then pleaded guilty to being a second offender under the state’s habitual offender law, because of a previous auto theft conviction in Jefferson Parish. In the previous conviction, he pleaded guilty to theft of a motor vehicle and attempted theft in December 2014 and received three years of probation, court records show. Those crimes involved his stealing a pickup truck, and attempting to steal a vehicle’s rims in May 2014, records show.

On Monday, Judge Adams sentenced Kyles to 10 years as a second-offender, on the second count of his guilty plea, conspiracy to commit auto theft. The judge ran that sentence concurrently, for a total of 10 years.

The others who’ve pleaded guilty in connection with the alleged auto theft ring are Jason Mercadel, 38, of New Orleans, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison; Jimmie “Black” James, 28, of New Orleans, who is scheduled to be sentenced in September; and, Brandon Lane, 29, of Marrero, who received a 10-year sentence.

Lane was charged last year, separately from the 13 men named in the May 5 indictment.

The others named in the indictment are Parrish Norris, 41; Oliver D. Green, 46; Patrick N. Robinson III, 28; Patrick N. Robinson Jr. 49; Cardell E. Torrence, 39; Kevin A. Martin, 29; Brandon P. Evans, 30; Keith A. Nero, 29; Shon R. Claiborne, 27; and Ronald J. Johnson, 29.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit and the Louisiana State Police investigated the case.

Assistant District Attorneys Thomas Sanderson, Lindsay Truhe and Doug Freese are prosecuting the cases.

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