Third defendant in auto theft racketeering case pleads guilty

A New Orleans man was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday (June 2), after he pleaded guilty to his role in an alleged auto theft ring that accounted for almost one-third of vehicle thefts in Jefferson Parish during a two-year period.

Jason Mercadel’s guilty plea brings to three the number of people who’ve admitted to being part the alleged ring. The thefts caused a net loss to the community valued at more than $2.5 million in 2014 and 2015, according to the bill of indictment a state grand jury handed up on May 5.

Mercadel, 38, pleaded guilty as charged to racketeering, conspiracy to commit theft and 11 counts of theft. As part of the negotiated plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed a charge of altering or removing a vehicle identification number.

Mercadel, also known as Jason Mercadal, is one of 13 people who were charged by a grand jury on May 5. According to the indictment, Mercadel both facilitated auto thefts and directly participated in the thefts. He was charged with designating vehicles to be stolen, transported others to steal the vehicles and stealing them himself.

Vehicles, primarily pickup trucks, allegedly were stolen for several reasons. In some cases, enterprise members allegedly transferred vehicle identification numbers from 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.

Judge Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Mercadel to 15 years for racketeering, 15 years for conspiracy, five years for each of the nine counts of theft of vehicles valued at between $5,000 and $25,000, and five years for each of two counts of theft of vehicles valued at between $750 and $5,000. The sentences were run concurrently.

Mercadel also pleaded guilty to being a repeat offender under Louisiana’s habitual offender law for a previous conviction of conspiracy to commit theft over $25,000. He received a 15-year sentence for as a second felony offender, which was run concurrently with the other sentences he received on Thursday.

On May 20, another of the 13 indicted people, Jimmie “Black” James, 28, of New Orleans, pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to commit auto theft, seven counts of theft and one count of altering a vehicle identification number. His sentencing is set for September.

Another man, Brandon Lane, 29, of Marrero, was charged separately last year in connection with the same auto theft ring. He pleaded guilty on March 18 to racketeering, conspiracy to commit auto theft, 17 counts of theft and illegal possession of stolen things. Lane was sentenced to 10 years as a second felony offender.

Others named in the May 5 indictment are Parrish Norris, 41; Oliver D. Green, 46; Patrick N. Robinson III, 28; Patrick N. Robinson Jr., 49; Cardell E. Torrence, 39; Ronnel A. Kyles, 29; 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 handled the investigation.

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

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