METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - One of the 13 men accused of stealing more than one-third of the stolen vehicles in Jefferson Parish over the past couple years admitted to his involvement in the massive auto-theft ring.
According to the Jefferson Parish DA's office, Jimmie "Black" James, 28, pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to commit theft, seven counts of theft and one count of altering a motor vehicle's identification number.
James' guilty plea comes two weeks after he was named in a racketeering indictment charging 13 people with a sweeping car theft ring in Jefferson Parish.
According to Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, the operation started in 2009 and involved everything from stealing cars to scrapping vehicles that were no longer useful.
"What we recognized was a systematic approach to these thefts and ultimate disposal of these vehicles that were in the hundreds, if not thousands of vehicles," Normand said. "When you begin to add up the activity of all these defendants ... it's pretty significant."
In the first quarter of 2015, JPSO deputies started seeing a significant amount of Ford, Chevy and GMC trucks and SUVs being stolen from the East Bank of Jefferson Parish.
"It is our investigative belief that a lot of these vehicles were determined to be stolen by members of this crew, well before they were … they'd go out and steal one-to-three vehicles a night," Normand said. "They already knew those were the vehicles they intended to take."
According to the indictment, the accused car thieves had help from a former elected office, identified only as "Co-conspirator B." That person was not named or charged in the indictment.
"As this thing progresses we're going to go wherever the evidence leads us," Normand said.
Prosecutors say the ring is responsible for $2.4 million in losses for the victims from 2014-15 alone.
"When we talk about the level of sophistication … that these guys have been doing for a long long time … their criminal history has repeated itself," Normand said. "This is their expertise and what they continued to go back to every time they rolled out of jail."
According to the JPDA, James pleaded guilty to stealing a 2005 GMC Yukon XL on April 13, 2015; a 2006 Ford F250 on April 16, 2015; a 2003 GMC Yukon on April 23, 2015; a 2006 Chevrolet 1500 on May 4, 2015; a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado on June 10, 2015; a Chevrolet Silverado on June 11, 2015; and a Chevrolet Silverado on May 2, 2014.
He also pleaded guilty to possessing a Chevrolet 2500 whose vehicle identification number had been altered in order to conceal the truck's identity.
Judge Adrian Adams accepted the plea. James will be sentenced in September.