Every year, the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI) award individuals that go above and beyond when investigating vehicle crimes. The IAATI/NICB Award of Excellence was created in 2005 as a joint venture to recognize law enforcement (individual officers, units, agencies, or departments). These individuals, units, agencies, or departments make a significant impact involving the dismantlement and prosecution of vehicle theft rings, chop shops, or other organized groups.
The award ceremony is typically held during the IAATI annual training conference, however due to COVID-19, the award ceremony was held via Zoom. D.T. "Rusty" Russell, NICB Director of Operations – Vehicles, announced the winners. These individuals were recognized for their work on a multi-state stolen vehicle ring case.
2020 IAATI/NICB Award of Excellence Recipients:
Investigator Pete Ciacci, New York State Police-Special Investigations Unit
FBI Special Agent Kevin Gonyo, New York Field Office
During the award ceremony, NICB Special Agent Richard Baxter was also recognized. Agent Baxter provided assistance in this investigation of an organized auto-theft ring over several years.
The organized ring would:
- Steal vehicles from Michigan, Florida, and other states
- Transport the stolen vehicles to New York and Connecticut for resale
- Create and/or obtain false titles, registrations, and temporary license plates for the stolen vehicles
- Use the false vehicle records to deceive car buyers and the South Dakota Division of Motor Vehicles
- Use online markets, such as eBay, to solicit buyers of the stolen vehicles from across the county
This investigation identified and charged seven individuals with operating a nationwide stolen vehicle scam, involving approximately 60 vehicles worth an estimated $3.1 million. Currently, the defendants have been charged with conspiracy, possession, sale, and transportation across state lines.