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Multimillion-dollar theft ring member gets 7 years in prison

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A member of a theft ring that committed more than 180 burglaries and eluded police in dozens of car chases in Connecticut and New York was sentenced Tuesday to more than seven years in prison.

Josepher Cartagena, of the Bronx in New York City, appeared before a federal judge in Hartford, Connecticut, after having pleaded guilty in February to possession of stolen property.

Four other people, including Cartagena’s brother, were charged in the burglary spree, which targeted mostly car dealerships and cell phone stores from June 2020 to January 2021 and netted more $4 million in stolen property, federal prosecutors said. The group stole cars, cell phones, electronics and even ATM machines, prosecutors said.

Cartagena’s lawyer, Jon Silveri, declined to comment after the hearing. In court documents, he wrote Cartagena acknowledged taking part in the thefts and regretted his actions but denied being a leader of the ring like prosecutors alleged.

“He believes he has learned his lesson from this case,” Silveri wrote. “His being involved in this case was due to poor judgment, lack of education and desire to obtain money.”

Cartagena, 26, said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Michael Shea that he was remorseful and is working to better himself.

Cartagena’s brother, Alexander Santiago, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to the same prison term — 90 months. A third person was sent to prison for over four years, and two others were charged.

Prosecutors said the crew escaped police on numerous occasions by leading officers on high-speed chases that had to be terminated for safety reasons. Information on Santiago’s phone indicated he engaged police in 89 chases, prosecutors said.

Authorities arrested Cartagena in December 2020 in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, after several high-speed chases and collisions with police vehicles that day. One officer was injured.

Prosecutors said many of the stolen items, including vehicle keys and cell phones, as well as cash, firearms and ammunition, were found in the homes of Cartagena and Santiago.

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