A New Orleans man was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday after admitting to his role in an auto theft ring that authorities said accounted for almost one-third of vehicle thefts in Jefferson Parish during a two-year period.
Jefferson District Attorney Paul Connick’s office said Jason Mercadel’s guilty plea makes him the third person to admit being part of a ring that cost the community more than $2.5 million in 2014 and 2015, according to the indictment a state grand jury handed up May 5.
Mercadel, 38, pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to commit theft and 11 counts of theft. Prosecutors dismissed a charge of altering or removing a vehicle identification number as part of his plea agreement.
Mercadel, also known as Jason Mercadal, is one of 13 people who were charged by the grand jury. Authorities said his role in the group was to select vehicles to be stolen, drive his accomplices to where they could steal the vehicles and, sometimes, steal them himself.
Connick’s office said the vehicles were mostly pickup trucks and were stolen for parts or scrap and to have their vehicle identification numbers changed to match those of legally purchased, but wrecked, vehicles.
Judge Adrian Adams, of 24th Judicial District Court, sentenced Mercadel to 15 years for racketeering, 15 years for conspiracy, five years for each of nine counts of theft of vehicles valued at between $5,000 and $25,000, and five years for each of two counts of theft of vehicles valued between $750 and $5,000, Connick’s office said.
Mercadel also pleaded guilty to being a second-felony offender and received 15 years for that.
All the sentences will run concurrently.
Connick’s office said two others have pleaded guilty in connection with the same auto theft ring.
On May 20, Jimmie “Black” James, 28, of New Orleans, pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to commit auto theft, seven counts of theft and one count of altering a vehicle identification number. His sentencing is set for September.
On March 18, Brandon Lane, 29, of Marrero, pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to commit auto theft, 17 counts of theft and illegal possession of stolen things. Lane, who was charged separately from the other 13, got 10 years as a second-felony offender.
The other defendants named in the May 5 indictment are Parrish Norris, 41; Oliver D. Green, 46; Patrick N. Robinson III, 28; Patrick N. Robinson Jr., 49; Cardell E. Torrence, 39; Ronnel A. Kyles, 29; Kevin A. Martin, 29; Brandon P. Evans, 30; Keith A. Nero, 29; Shon R. Claiborne, 27; and Ronald J. Johnson, 29.