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20 plead guilty in auto theft ring
Troy Jason Edenfield - photo by FILE
    One man was tried and found guilty last week of involvement in an auto theft ring that centered around Statesboro. Twenty of 23 indicted in the case plead guilty while one case was dismissed and another suspect was given a pretrial diversion.
    One suspect, a former Statesboro Police officer at the time of his involvement, John Fitzgerald Jones, was among the 20 who plead guilty, according to United States Attorney Edmund Booth Jr., with the United States Department of Justice Southern District of Georgia.
    Jones, 43, of Statesboro, plead guilty to possession of a counterfeit motor vehicle title with the intent to deceive.
    Two others involved were also former Statesboro Police officers but were not employed with the department when arrests were made. They are John Allen Williams, 37, Marietta, who plead guilty of conspiracy; and Allen Michael Tillman, 30, Bluffton., SC, who also plead guilty to conspiracy.
    Wesley Bernard Aikens, 31, Union City was the only suspect to have a trial.
    Booth said Aikens was convicted by jury of conspiracy during a trial June 16 and 17 in Statesboro's U.S. District Court.
    Chief U.S. District Judge William T. Moore presided over the trial, he said.
    In a press release issued Tuesday, Booth said "The proof at trial established that Aikens was involved in a conspiracy to steal motor vehicles, alter the vehicle identification numbers  ...  prepare counterfeit Louisiana motor vehicle titles matching the altered VINs, and then sell the stolen vehicles under the altered VINs and counterfeit motor vehicle titles."
    He said Aikens  was involved in the rental and subsequent theft of a black Chrysler 300 sedan from Budget Rent-A-Car in Atlanta in April 2005.  
    Immediately afterward, the car was registered with the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles in Statesboro, using counterfeit Louisiana motor vehicle titles and an altered VIN.  The car was one of more than 30 stolen cars, trucks, and SUVs registered under altered VINs, using substantially similar counterfeit Louisiana motor vehicle titles, in the Bulloch County area in the years 2005 and 2006, he said.
    Aiken was one of 23 suspects indicted Dec. 13, 2007. The 56-count indictment was unsealed in January after the suspects were arrested, he said.
    Suspect Robert Dwayne Prince was given a pretrial diversion, which means charges will be dropped providing he adhere to court mandates, said R. Brian Tanner, Assistant U.S. Attorney with the Southern District of Georgia.
    Charges against suspect Terry Levan McCoy were "dismissed in favor of state prosecution,"  he said.
    The following defendants plead guilty at hearings in April, May and early June: Justin Wayne Prince, 24, Statesboro  —  possession of a counterfeit motor vehicle title with the intent to deceive; Daisy Victoria Scott, 31, Sylvania —  conspiracy: Jermaine Van Gardner, 34, Savannah — conspiracy; Jeffrey Lee Gaines, 40, Pampa, TX — conspiracy
    Also, Charlie Simmons, 49, Savannah — possession of a counterfeit motor vehicle title with the intent to defraud; Randall Lee Chambers, 46, Metter — conspiracy; Ronnie Lee Jr., 23, Savannah —  trafficking in a motor vehicle with an altered VIN; Brian Daniel Hunt, 24, Brooklet — conspiracy; Willie Battise Jr., 44, Bloomingdale — possession of a counterfeit motor vehicle title with the intent to deceive.
    Also,  Woodard Hook Lewis, 49, Statesboro — conspiracy: Taryn Marie York, (not related to Statesboro Police Chief Stan York), 23,  Nokesville, Va. — misprision of a felony; Archie Douglas Finch, Jr., 58, Portal — conspiracy; James Wesley Edenfield, 36, Statesboro — false statements; Leon Spencer Patterson, 39, Snellville —  possession of a counterfeit motor vehicle title with the intent to deceive.
    Also, Troy Jason Edenfield, 34, Statesboro — trafficking in a motor vehicle with an altered VIN; Adisha Jabari Bryant, 29, Savannah — conspiracy; and Jimmy Lee Everett, 39, Statesboro — trafficking in a motor vehicle with an altered VIN.
    Sentencing will take place after a pre-sentence investigation and report, Booth said.  
    The maximum statutory sentence for charges of trafficking in vehicles with altered VINs  and possession of a counterfeit motor vehicle title with the intent to deceive is 10 years.
    Charges of conspiracy and false statements carry a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison. Misprision of a felony carries a three-year maximum statutory sentence, Booth said.
    Booth praised the  investigative efforts of  Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Marcus Kirkland, who was lead case agent, and Georgia Department of revenue Special Agent Peter McFarlane, who works in the Auto Theft Unit.  
    "The Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Statesboro Police Department, and the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office all provided substantial assistance in this matter," he said.
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