New Orleans scrap yard owner pleads guilty, gets 10 years in auto theft racketeering case

Hours after he was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday morning (June 30), the co-owner of a New Orleans scrap yard pleaded guilty to participating in an alleged criminal enterprise whose members were responsible for almost one-third of the auto thefts in Jefferson Parish in recent years.

Harry J. Sorrell, 48, of Slidell, pleaded guilty as charged to racketeering and conspiracy to commit theft, for crimes occurring between 2009 and this year. Sorrell then pleaded guilty to being a double offender under Louisiana’s habitual offender law, because of a 2008 conviction of a federal weapons offense.

Judge Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court, who accepted the pleas on Thursday afternoon, sentenced Sorrell to 10 years in prison as a second felony offender. Sorrell then was remanded into state custody to begin the sentence.

According to the superseding indictment, Sorrell, who also uses the name Harry Sporrell, owned and operated a scrap yard with an unindicted co-conspirator. Vehicles that were stolen by enterprise members were transported to the scrap yard to be crushed. By crushing the vehicles, the enterprise members eliminated evidence and gained another source of revenue through the sale of scrap metal, according to the indictment.

Enterprise members additionally filed fraudulent insurance claims seeking compensation from insurance companies, after members of the enterprise alleged their involvement in staged automobile accidents.

On May 5, a Jefferson Parish grand jury handed up an indictment charging 13 people in connection with the racketeering case. Sorrell was listed as unindicted co-conspirator “A” in that bill of indictment. On Thursday, a grand jury handed up a superseding bill of indictment, adding Sorrell and two other men to the list of defendants who were previously charged.

Authorities say approximately 32 percent of all vehicle thefts in Jefferson Parish in 2014 and 2015 were tied to the group of men. The thefts, most involving trucks, amounted to at least $2.5 million in economic loss to Jefferson Parish, according to the bill of indictment.

While the grand jury met Thursday morning, Patrick Robinson Jr., 49, of New Orleans, pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to commit theft, 11 counts of theft, two counts of illegal possession of stolen things and altering vehicle identification numbers.

Robinson was among the 13 people who were charged on May 5. Judge Adams is scheduled to sentence Robinson on Sept. 19.

Sorrell’s and Robinson’s pleas on Thursday bring to six the number of defendants who have admitted guilt in the racketeering case.

Ronnel A. Kyles, 29, received a 10-year prison sentence. Jimmie “Black” James, 28, of New Orleans, is scheduled to be sentenced in September. Jason Mercadel, 38, of New Orleans, was sentenced to 15 years in prison; and Brandon Lane, 29, of Marrero, received a 10-year sentence.

Others named in the indictment are Parrish Norris, 41; Oliver D. Green, 46; Patrick N. Robinson III, 28, whose father is the Robinson who pleaded guilty on Thursday; 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. Norrish remains at large and led police in New Orleans on a high-speed chase after he was indicted on May 5.

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

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

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