NICB Award of Excellence

Nominations Deadline: May 01, 2020

All nominations should be sent to: Executive Director PO Box 223, Clinton, NY 13323-0223 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

This award was created in 2005 as a joint venture between the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI). It is intended to recognize any law enforcement person(s), unit or department, who has distinguished themselves in area of vehicle theft investigations, making a significant impact involving dismantlement and prosecution of a vehicle theft ring or chop shop.

Award Recipients

Name or Group
 FBI Special Agent Kevin Gonyo NY Field Office
NICB Award of Excellence Winners
Investigator Pete Ciacci, New York State Police, Special Investigations Unit
NICB Award of Excellence Winners
Investigator Pete Ciacci, New York State Police, Special Investigations Unit
NICB Award of Excellence Winners
Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Auto-Theft Unit

In the first quarter of 2015, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Auto-Theft Unit detected a high volume of vehicle thefts and attempted vehicle thefts involving American made SUV’s. Analysis of hundreds of vehicle thefts along with the forensic evidence gathered linked suspects to the theft of many vehicles. The investigation revealed numerous suspects functioning in various capacities to steal vehicles, to retag and resell the stolen vehicles and parts as well as the use of stolen vehicles and salvaged vehicles for insurance fraud involving staged accidents and vehicle theft fraud.

Investigators targeted the lower level thieves and conducted interviews and obtained search warrants that provided evidence against a large number of individuals and an ongoing criminal enterprise. The evidence was presented to the Grand Jury resulting in indictments of 21 individuals which included a judge. 

Since the last quarter of 2014, this enterprise was believed to be responsible for over 1,000 vehicle thefts with an estimated value over $3million. To date, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Auto-Theft Unit with the assistance of the Louisiana State Police and the NICB has recovered over fifty vehicles stolen by this criminal enterprise, including twenty re-tagged vehicles. 

Of the 21 defendants indicted by the Grand Jury, 18 defendants have pled guilty with punishments ranging from ten to twenty years in prison. The remaining 3 defendants are in plea negotiations. At the very top of this criminal enterprise is a former Orleans Parish Judge, who was indicted by a Grand Jury in February of 2017. The judge was additionally linked to multiple insurance fraud investigations based on records obtained thru the NICB.

Detective Chad Dear and Sergeant Gary Barteet, on behalf of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Auto-Theft Unit, receiving the NICB Award of Excellence from Committee Chair Richard Spallinger, NICB’s Rusty Russell and President JD Hough.

Tuscon Squad of the Arizona DPS RATTLER Vehicle Theft Task Force

This award was created in 2005 as a joint venture between NICB and the IAATI. It is intended to recognize any law enforcement person(s), unit or department, who have distinguished themselves in area of vehicle theft investigations, making a significant impact involving dismantlement and prosecution of a vehicle theft ring or chop shop.

This year’s winners are the members of the Tucson Squad of the Arizona Department of Public Safety Rattler Vehicle Theft Taskforce; Ray Mechtel, Ryan Azuelo Kasey Ball, Mike Valencia, Clay Strahle, Steve Jimenez and Chief Ricardo Briseno with United States Customs and Border Protection .

In early 2015 a trend was found indicating numerous Ford F250 and F350 trucks were being stolen in Tucson area and taken to Mexico. Tucson is approximately 70 miles from Nogales Mexico and many times vehicles are stolen in Tucson and have already crossed the border before the owner discovers the vehicle missing. The Arizona Department of Public Safety RATTLER Vehicle Theft Taskforce began an operation in an attempt to stem the tide of the F250s and F350s being stolen and taken to Mexico.

A partnership was created between the AZDPS RATTLER taskforce, Tucson Police Department, Pima County Sheriff’s Office, Marana Police Department and US Customs in Nogales Arizona. The Tucson Police Department began sending text alerts to the taskforce members and US Customs in Nogales every time a F250 or F350 was stolen. The text alerts contained the vehicle information including the assigned license plates. US Customs would then then enter the license plates in the US Customs and Border Protection LPR system. This provided sufficient time for CBP to interdict the vehicle prior to getting into Mexico or the driver of the vehicle when they attempted to re-enter the US. The tactic proved to be very successful as it ultimately resulted in many arrests which otherwise would not have occurred. Through the use of intelligence collection (CAD reports, phone exploitation, pocket litter, statements, etc.), they learned this was a trans-national organized crime syndicate, based out of Mexico, with ties to a trans-national drug and human trafficking organization.

Additionally the taskforce detectives met with county prosecutors paving the way for successful prosecution of the suspects. Between January and June of 2015 the Task Force recovered 126 stolen vehicles valued at over $900,000. More importantly they made 42 in-progress auto theft arrests. For a single six-month period, these types of statistics are unprecedented for this region. This operation was conducted in conjunction with daily responsibilities of the detectives. This operation proved so successful some of the tactics are still being used. Just last week the US Customs in Nogales interdicted 7 stolen vehicle that resulted in 7 people arrested and charged with vehicle theft.

NICB would like to thank the member of the taskforce for their dedication and resourcefulness to an ongoing vehicle theft problem by presenting them with the NICB award of Excellence.

Kyle Brady and Kenneth Fields

SIG Kyle Brady and Det. Kenneth Fields conducted an investigation into the thefts of heavy equipment stolen in the Evansville IN area which led to multiple subjects connected to other thefts from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and North Carolina. Detective Fields, SIG Brady and NICB S/A Kevin Haggard identified 83 pieces of heavy equipment, commercial trucks and construction trailers with an estimated value of over $2,000,000.00 and for which 8 people were arrested.

Detective Kenny Fields, Evansville, IN Police Dept Sp/Inv Kyle Brady, Travelers Ins. Co.
New York City Police Dept - Michael Simeone, Richard Straus, Daniel Fox

The NICB Award of Excellence is intended to recognize any law enforcement person(s), or department who has distinguished themselves in area of vehicle theft investigations, making a significant impact involving dismantling and prosecution of a vehicle theft ring or chop shop. This year’s winners have done just that.

New York Police Department Detectives Michael Simeone, Richard Straus and Daniel Fox conducted an investigation that lasted over 18 months and grew into one of the largest NYPD Auto Crime cases they have investigated. This case shows how through data analytics, GPS technology, wiretaps, and good old police surveillance, an investigation can be so successful.

The steal crews were stealing the vehicles throughout the New York Metropolitan area tagging them and registering them with washed titles. Many of the vehicles were slated to be exported or to be sold to local or out of state buyers. Cooperation between the NYPD, NY DMV, NICB, and several other area law enforcement agencies lent to the immense success of this investigation.

A total of 311 vehicles were involved in this case with an estimated value of over $15 million dollars. To date 32 people have been arrested. Congratulations to the winners!


L-R: IAATI President Peter Perrien; NYCPD Detectives Michael Simeone, Richard Straus, Daniel Fox; James Schweitzer, COO at NICB

Insp. Aaron Carver, North Carolina DMV, License & Theft Bureau and Insp. David Rockett, Hickory (NC) Police Dept

Inspector Carver and Investigator Rockett with Barbara Rambo

The NICB Award of Excellence is intended to recognize any law enforcement person(s), or department who has distinguished themselves in area of vehicle theft investigations, making a significant impact involving dismantlement and prosecution of a vehicle theft ring or chop shop. This year’s winners have done just that.

In January 2012 Inspector Aaron Carver of the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles License & Theft Bureau received information from a citizen who believed they had spotted their stolen utility trailer on Craigslist. Inspector Carver took action and began searching through DMV records for the seller’s information. Carver located a possible match and upon viewing the satellite image of this person’s residence observed several utility trailers parked in front of the residence.

Inspector Carver contacted NICB and ran the suspect through ISO ClaimSearch, confirming the suspect’s address and also obtaining a telephone number for the suspect. Inspector Carver discovered the suspect had previously fi led insurance claims in Los Angeles, CA and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Information that would later prove critical to this investigation!

Inspector Carver discovered there were several reports of stolen utility trailers from Hickory North Carolina so he contacted Detective David Rockett of the Hickory Police Department. Although that initial lead failed to produce a recovery, it lead to the recovery of a different stolen trailer, which began a domino effect that would eventually result in the recovery of 42 vehicles valued at an estimated $443,714.00, and the disruption of a large scale organized theft ring which spanned from the west to east coast of the United States. Amazingly, the target of this investigation was not a career criminal (prior to this investigation) but rather a Hollywood actor who had played in a mini-series on cable.

Working together, Carver and Rockett utilized all the tools at their disposal, including NICB. Their inter-agency cooperation is what contributed to the success of this investigation. This case could have easily been concluded at the recovery of the first stolen trailer; however, these officers took the initiative to go the extra mile and were relentless in their pursuit of justice. Because many of the vehicles recovered had altered/obliterated VIN’s Inspectors from NCDMV utilized NICB to obtain secondary VIN information and confirm the true identity of these vehicles/vessels, thus leading to the recoveries.

Inspector Carver and Investigator Rockett display a firm understanding and embrace for the concept of teamwork which is critical to the success of any large scale investigation.

Det. Aaron Auclair, New Jersey State Police

Detective Jim Stahl Lake County (IN) Sheriff’s Office “Operation Sting 1”

(L-R) Joseph Jaskolski, Richard Borchert, Jim Stahl & Joseph Wehrle (NICB President
& CEO)

This award was created in 2005 as a joint venture between NICB and IAATI. It is intended to recognize any law enforcement person(s), unit or department, who has distinguished themselves in area
of vehicle theft investigations, making a significant impact involving dismantlement and prosecution of a vehicle theft ring or chop shop.

Background / Nomination for the 2010 Recipients:
Northwest Indiana (Lake County) has consistently been a very popular area for both Commercial Theft and Personal Auto Theft rings due to the location between three major expressways connecting Illinois,Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

As a result, the Lake County Sheriff made a request for an AUTO THEFT & COMMERCIAL sting operation to be established in Lake County Indiana.

During the past year the Lake County/ NICB Auto Theft Task Force spearheaded this investigation. Investigators spent countless hours conducting surveillance, interviews, and coordinating this large
scale investigation. Many of these hours were during the late night or early mornings. Investigators diligently supported every aspect of this investigation and were the driving forces behind the successful dismantlement of these criminal enterprises.

The targeted individuals had been operating within Northwest Indiana for nearly 8 years. During that time period, more than 4,000 vehicles were stolen in Northwest Indiana; with estimated losses
of more than 23 million dollars to consumers and victims. 

This joint investigative effort, with assistance from the DEA and the Lake County Prosecutor was one of the largest auto theft cases in Northwest Indiana. The investigation was initiated in November of 2009 and concluded by May of 2010 with arrest warrants for 28 individuals. In addition to the 28 arrests, 88 vehicles were recovered with a value $850,704.

Charges included Auto Theft, Car-Jacking, Possession of a Firearm by a Felon, Vehicle Cloning, Possession of Drugs, Burglary, Theft, Possession of a vehicle with an Altered VIN, Fleeing to avoid
arrest, Discharging a firearm within City Limits, Operating a chop shop.

IAATI and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) congratulate and acknowledge the 2010 NICB Award of Excellence recipients for their efforts and dedication to Operation “Sting 1”. They continuously made unselfish sacrifices for the advancement of this investigation.

The Lake County Indiana Sheriff - NIC B Auto Theft Task Force:
• Captain Richard Borchert, Detective Jim Stahl and Administrator Kara Ralowski, Lake County Sheriff’s Office
• Detective Bill Klause, Gary Indiana Police Department
• Senior Special Agent Joseph Jaskolski, NICB

Editor’s note: Det. Bill Klause and Administrator Kara Ralowski could not attend the seminar and therefore were not in the photo. 

SSA Stan Doss, NICB & SA Bijan Hunter, FBI

NICB Senior Special Agent Stan Doss and FBI Special Agent Bijan Hunter were presented with the 2009 NICB / IAATI Award of Excellence at the 57th Annual Training seminar in Westminster,
Colorado. Agents Doss and Hunter were an integral part in the success of Operational Dual Identity, one of the largest vehicle theft cases in the United States.

The following is the nomination submitted by SSA Stan Doss’ Area Director, Ron Poindexter of the National Insurance Crime Bureau:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent Bijan Hunter and NICB Special Agent Stan Doss are worthy nominations for the IAATI / NICB Award of Excellence for their efforts and dedication
in NICB case # C0703100008 Operation “Dual Identity”. They have continuously made unselfish sacrifices for the advancement of this investigation. Operation “Dual Identity” is a joint car-cloning
scheme investigation, and has identified criminal cells in Tampa, Miami, Chicago, and Mexico. This joint investigative effort is one of the largest auto theft cases in the United States. Arrest warrants
for 17 individuals were executed in Tampa and Miami, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico. To date, approximately 50 individuals associated with this operation have
been charged. This investigation was initiated in December 2006.

The individuals have been operating within the United States for nearly 20 years and in Mexico since at least 2004. During the period of time that these criminal cells were operating, more than
1,000 vehicles were stolen in the state of Florida, with estimated losses of more than $25 million dollars to consumers and victims 

During the past 2 ½ years SA Doss has been assigned to the FBI office in Tampa and worked side by side with FBI Agent Bijan Hunter, they spearheaded this investigation. They have spent
countless hours of surveillance, working the wire tap, and coordinating this large scale investigation. Many of these hours were during the late night or early mornings. They diligently supported
every aspect of this investigation and were the driving forces behind the successful dismantlement of this criminal enterprise.

Congratulations and thank you to Stan Doss and Bijan Hunter for their diligence and a job well done.

San Diego County Regional Auto Theft Task Force (RATT) San Diego, CA

NICB AWARD OF EXCELLENCE. (L to R) NICB Area 3 Director Ralph Lumpkin, California Highway Patrol Captain Lisa Wrobel, San Diego RATT Commander

IAATI / NICB are proud to present this years NICB Award of Excellence to the San Diego County Regional Auto Theft Task Force (RATT). Due to the higher than average vehicle
theft issue and close proximity to the U.S. / Mexican border, RATT was started as a pilot project in 1990 and became fully operational in 1992. Today, RATT consists of 26 Law Enforcement personnel from 14 Agencies and is operating throughout the San Diego County region along with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. RATT is receiving this year’s award, not only for the outstanding work and dedication by all members since its inception in 1992, but also as a result of “Operation Southside Blitz” which resulted in indictment of 91 vehicle theft suspects and warrants issued for an additional 6 suspects. “Operations Southside Blitz” also resulted in the recovery of 160 vehicles with an estimated value of 1.9 million dollars, not to mention various weapons and drug violations. “Operation Southside Blitz”, which involved an Undercover Storefront operation as well as undercover officers and the use of informant’s, was a very successful operation which shows the outstanding dedication and tireless efforts of all members of RATT.

Special thanks to NICB Area 3 Director Ralph Lumpkin for the nomination which included the following details of “Operation Southside Blitz”.

2007 Operation Southside Blitz
In the late fall of 2006, RATT Detective Marty Bolger began investigating several vehicle theft suspects working within the southern areas of San Diego County. Through analysis of vehicle theft statistics and information from cooperating individuals, Detective Bolger developed a RATT operational plan to address the regional vehicle theft problem. The operation was entitled “Southside Blitz” and would include the use of an undercover storefront, informants and undercover detectives to identify and infiltrate the various criminal networks operating throughout the county.

On January 8, 2007, the storefront opened for business. Detective Bolger was designated as the operations case agent. Detective Andrew Golembiewski was assigned co-case agent. Detectives Paul Winslow and John Clements were utilized as undercover officers. The remainder of the task force provided officer safety support and surveillance for the undercover officers and assisted in suspect identification. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) assisted in the operation by providing RATT with both audio and video surveillance equipment in and around the storefront location, along with the use of two undercover agents.

The use of the storefront added legitimacy to the stories undercover officers told their targets. Once the initial contact with a vehicle theft suspect was made, undercover officers would arrange to buy a stolen car, firearms or narcotics at an off-site location from the storefront. The location was monitored by a pole camera and surveillance officers. Normally, after the first contact, the undercover officers would inform the suspects that they felt comfortable the suspects were not “cops.” The suspects would then be “invited” to the storefront for subsequent illegal transactions. The storefront closed in July, 2007, however, the operation continued through October, 2007.

Impact of Southside Blitz
At the conclusion of Operation Southside Blitz, a total of 91 vehicle theft suspects were identified, with 73 suspects indicted by the San Diego CA County Grand Jury and warrants issued for
six (6) others. One hundred and sixty (160) vehicles were recovered, valued at approximately 1.9 million dollars. In addition, undercover officers purchased illegal firearms, including an AK-
47, along with a variety of narcotics. Many of the defendants were documented gang members and parolees with extensive criminal histories. Two of the defendants are being investigated
for two separate homicides. One of the suspects was involved in a large narcotic/illegal immigrant smuggling ring. At the time of his arrest, a large two story underground bunker was discovered under the residence, complete with lighting and water. The bunker was used to conceal the illegal activities of the suspects, including weapons, narcotics, and vehicle theft.

On November 15, 2007, over 200 law enforcement officers Stadium in San Diego to assist in serving the arrest warrants. By the end of the day, 56 suspects were arrested and booked on
charges related to the operation. Arrests continue to be made and to date, seven suspects are still outstanding. Sentencing for these defendants range anywhere from three years to 152 years, including life in prison.

Operation Southside Blitz was the largest vehicle theft sting operation in San Diego County history. Although the majority of the vehicle theft suspects operated in the eastern, mid, and southern
portions of the county, every part of San Diego County was impacted by the criminal networks identified in this undercover operation. The local media provided significant coverage of the “take down” and subsequent press conference where the highlights of the undercover operation were disclosed.

Financial Impact
When RATT became fully operational in 1992, funding for the task force was secured by assessing a $1 surcharge to every vehicle registered within San Diego County. Sixteen years later, RATT still operates under the same funding mechanism. The costs associated with conducting a storefront operation, like Operation Southside Blitz, can be financially burdensome on a task force. Rent, utilities, and security monitoring are some of the additional expenses absorbed by the RATT budget. In addition, the cost of purchasing stolen vehicles can range anywhere from $200 for an older model Honda to $5,000 for a new Chevy Suburban off a dealership overflow lot. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has recognized the financial impact on RATT in conducting these storefront operations. Operation Southside Blitz combined costs totaled over $50,000 for an estimated value of 1.9 million dollars in recovered stolen vehicles. NICB provided financial assistance
to RATT by donating $15,000 to help offset operational expenses. Without the support of stakeholders like NICB, impacted by the cost of vehicle theft, these types of operations would not be possible.

Every member of RATT was instrumental in the success of Operation Southside Blitz. Coordination of such a large and complex investigation required countless hours of investigative work and follow- up. The case agents did an outstanding job in managing such an involved and intricate operation. The undercover officers were very convincing as “crooks” and gained the trust of the unsuspecting targets in the operation. The surveillance and officer safety teams provided excellent coverage and security for the undercover officers. The Deputy District Attorneys assigned to the task force were tenacious in the charges and prosecution of the defendants.

As a proactive task force, RATT has focused on and found success in utilizing covert methods to identify and infiltrate the criminal organizations that prey on all members of our community. In conducting these types of undercover operations, the efforts of RATT will result in a safer environment for the citizens of San Diego County.

Fairfax County Virginia Police Criminal Intelligence Division
Det. Tim Holm, Salem (OR) P D

S/A Dale Gesner, NICB Oregon