"Rim Reapers" Busted, Accused Of Car Rim Rip-offs

Gone in five minures

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCNewYork
    A car ravaged by the "Rim Reapers"

    Anna Panasenko is still so worried about her new car, she can't sleep nights.

    Twice late last year, the rims and tires of her 2009 Nissan Maxima were stolen, with the car left on cinder blocks right in front of her Ronkonkoma home.

    "It's not a great feeling," Panasenko said. "This is your house and you should feel safe and not have to worry about someone coming in the middle of the night, right under your window."

    The thieves who ripped off Panasenko's prized car came to be known as the "Rim Reapers," according to Suffolk county prosecutors.

    Five men are now in custody, arrested after authorities executed close to a dozen search warrants.

    They are accused of stealing over 300 rims and tires from dozens of individual car owners in Bellport, Ronkonkoma and East Northport as well as car dealerships in Riverhead, Middle Island, Bay Shore and Port Jefferson Station over the last few months.

    "My neighbor called and said you have no tires," said East Northport car owner, Cheryl Kaplan. "My husband looked outside and said, Oh My God!"

    The thieves' targeted high end cars like Acuras and Cadillac Escalades, said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said. Their alleged haul is estimated around at least a quarter million dollars.

    "They were a brazen bunch," added Spota. "From time to time, people would call them up with a special order for, let's say, Mercedes tires and boom!  They would hit a Mercedes."

    Armed with hydraulic floor jacks and other tire removal equipment, the thieves acted with the precision of a race car pit crew, prosecutors said. The gang could steal all four rims and tires off a car in five minutes. 

    They're accused of spending up to an hour at a time in the dealerships, hitting as many as twenty cars in one evening.

    The tires would then be kept in a rented storage facility and eventually sold on eBay or Craigslist, Spota said.

    Rims and tires valued at up to six thousand dollars were sold for as little as a thousand bucks.  After one sale, a satisfied customer replied online with the comment, "love the wheels."

    All five suspects have pleaded not guilty.

    They were identified as Darren Scales, 24 of Mastic, Steven Clarke, 25 of Holbrook, Lahsheem Stewart, 19 of Selden, Hasheem McLaurin, 28 of Amityville and Kelvin Mitchell, 24 of Centereach.  They face up to 15 years in prison.