The co-owner of a New Orleans scrap yard referred to only as an unindicted co-conspirator in a May 5 racketeering and auto-theft indictment in Jefferson Parish was indicted Thursday and quickly sentenced to 10 years in prison after admitting to his role in the criminal enterprise.

Harry J. Sorrell, 48, of Slidell, pleaded guilty as charged to racketeering and conspiracy to commit theft just hours after being added to the case in a superseding indictment handed up by a Jefferson Parish grand jury.

The case’s second, unindicted co-conspirator remained unnamed Thursday, though the profile closely matches that of former Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge David Bell.

The May indictment said that person is a former elected official in New Orleans who was the business partner of the man revealed in Thursday’s indictment to be Sorrell.

The indictment said the two provided money to members of the theft ring and participated in filing fraudulent insurance claims, with the former elected official using his political weight to “prevent or otherwise hamper” investigations into the overall operation.

Bell is listed in state records as Sorrell’s business partner in H&H Scrap on Old Gentilly Road.

Bell, who resigned his judicial post in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal in 2010, denied involvement in any sort of auto theft ring when contacted by The New Orleans Advocate on May 13.

“I’m not involved in it. I’ve never been contacted by any investigative body,” he said.

Bell, who now is in private law practice, said he and other partners put up money to open a scrap yard on Old Gentilly Road, but within a week, a building on the lot burned to the ground.
 

“A gentleman convinced us that we should basically fund an operation to go into the scrap industry, so that’s how we created and opened H & H Scrap, and within 10 days, it was burned down. Never opened, never operated and that was in 2011,” Bell said.

Reached the same day, Sorrell also denied involvement, saying the New Orleans East scrap yard the pair had owned together had been “closed down for years.”

He professed surprise about the news of the investigation. “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Sorrell said before ending the conversation May 13.

According to the superseding indictment, Sorrell sold a stolen 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe via Reed Auto Sales on April 3, 2013. When police recovered the vehicle, the fingerprints of Oliver Green, one of the men indicted in May, were found on the back of a sticker that contained the vehicle identification information for a 1999 Tahoe.

Judge Adrian Adams, of 24th Judicial District Court, sentenced Sorrell on Thursday as a two-time felony offender, stemming from a 2008 conviction on a federal weapons offense.

Sorrell then was remanded into state custody to begin his sentence, Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick’s office said.

Sorrell is the sixth person to plead guilty in connection with the car theft ring, which operated from 2009 to 2015. With 16 members now indicted, the group is said to have been responsible for $2.5 million in losses in Jefferson Parish and to have accounted for almost one-third of the parish’s auto thefts in 2014 and 2015.

The superseding indictment said the scrap yard owned by Sorrell and the remaining unindicted co-conspirator took in vehicles stolen by the theft ring’s members and crushed them, eliminating the evidence and deriving a source of revenue from the criminal enterprise by selling the scrap metal.

The ring also is accused of taking legitimate vehicle identification numbers and putting them on the stolen vehicles, as well as of insurance fraud for staging accidents.

Also on Thursday, Patrick Robinson Jr., 49, of New Orleans, admitted to his role in the theft ring. Named in the original indictment, Robinson pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to commit theft, 11 counts of theft, two counts of illegal possession of stolen things and altering vehicle identification numbers.

Two other men were named in the superseding indictment: Allden Jones, 45, and Osmond Caston, 69.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.