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Seven arrested after year-long 'Operation Hellcat' investigation face rare racketeering charges

1 week 6 days 21 hours ago Wednesday, May 29 2024 May 29, 2024 May 29, 2024 4:42 PM May 29, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

PORT ALLEN — Seven people arrested in March in a car heist ring that stole new vehicles from a railroad yard in Port Allen were formally charged Wednesday with racketeering, as well as theft charges, a state prosecutor said.

District Attorney Tony Clayton said members of the group were charged with five counts of simple burglary, three counts of theft, four counts of attempted theft, principal to simple burglary, accessories after the fact and racketeering, a rarely used criminal charge.

The charges were filed against:
- Joseph Parker, Jr., 38
- Jaquan Price, 18
- Keleen Magee, 26
- Ashanti Bradley, 22
- Kelsey Smith, 25
- Kenneth Stackhouse, 25
- Dion Roberts, 24

Clayton's formal charges against the group comes after a year-long, cross-jurisdictional investigation called "Operation Hellcat" that resulted in the recovery of over a million dollars worth of stolen assets.

The theft ring was a sophisticated racketeering enterprise in which they would break into Dodge Hellcats — valued at $100,000 each — at a railroad yard in Port Allen, take a key fob out of the vehicles and leave an AirTag inside, the district attorney said. Once the vehicles were delivered to various dealerships, they would locate the cars with the AirTag, go to the dealerships with the key fobs and steal the vehicles, Clayton said.

The dealership locations were across six locations in southeast Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, Slidell, Metairie, Lafayette and Harvey.

“We are prosecuting them aggressively under the RICO law, which is rarely used to prosecute cases but perfectly fits this case. And when they are convicted, we will pursue the toughest sentences possible. We are not going to tolerate this activity in our community," Clayton said.

The theft of two vehicles was reported from the Port Allen auto facility in March of 2023, and in July dealerships began reporting vehicles being delivered with key fobs missing. At the same time, AirTags were recovered in vehicles at dealerships and in purchased vehicles. The vehicles and key fobs all originated out of the same Port Allen auto facility, the prosecutor's office said.

The West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office found that the AirTags were tied to Magee, Roberts and Parker. In a search of four residences, they found key fobs, grinders, burglary tools, AirTags and other evidence, which led to the march arrests.

The seven people charged will be arraigned in district court in Port Allen on June 11.

In February, Clayton successfully used the RICO statute against five people facing second-degree murder charges in the 2021death of Eugene Jarreau III, 43, at his New Roads home.

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