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Auto-theft task force garners award

District Attorney Jim Martin has announced that the Lehigh County Auto Theft Task Force, as well as other law enforcement agencies, received an international award for an investigation leading to the prosecution of a criminal organization stealing heavy equipment, utility trailers, commercial trucks and other equipment.

Criminal charges against several individuals for offenses committed in six Pennsylvania counties were consolidated and prosecuted in Monroe County. The organization targeted heavy equipment, utility trailers commercial trucks and equipment from active highway construction sites and home construction developments throughout Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Carbon, Monroe and Luzerne counties.

The investigation uncovered thefts totaling an estimated $1 million and to date, $500,000 in vehicles, equipment and tools have been recovered. At a ceremony held earlier this month, the Auto Theft Task Force and the other agencies received the Roger D. Overton Award.

The award is named after Overton, a long-standing member of the Northeast Regional Chapter of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators and is given to recipients based on their “outstanding efforts and work” in the field of auto theft investigation.

From 2018 through 2019, the Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Task Force saw a spike of almost two dozen commercial vehicles and equipment thefts in the six aforementioned counties. Several individuals associated with the organized theft group were caught on camera stealing the vehicles and equipment from the highway construction sites and home construction developments.

The investigation revealed a network of individuals and properties where the stolen items were stored and hidden. Several of the individuals charged in this criminal organization were stealing the equipment to support drug addictions and failed attempts to create their own excavation companies.

The award was presented to the following law enforcement agencies related to the investigation:

• Lehigh County Auto Theft Task Force members detectives Sal Aprile, Joseph Conway and Chad Wasserman. The Task Force is supervised by Chief Deputy District Attorney David J. Mussel.

• Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Task Force East and Central

• Pennsylvania State Police Troop N

• Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Mark Matthews

• Mount Olive Township Police and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

District Attorney Martin said, “I am very proud of the work of our Auto Theft Task Force. It has consistently performed at the highest level. The recognition it has received through the Overton Award is well deserved!”

Contributed article