Two men have been charged in an indictment with conspiring to steal Volkswagen and Audi vehicles from a lot in Pontiac, Michigan, announced United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.
Schneider was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division and Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
Charged were Romane Porter, 42, of Farmington Hills, Michigan and Daniel Onorati, 41, of Eastpointe, Michigan. Onorati was arraigned last week on the charges in federal court in Detroit and was released on an unsecured bond. Porter is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on April 12, 2019. The charges stem from an investigation initiated by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit.
According to the seven count indictment, beginning in March, 2017 and continuing through September, 2017, Porter and Onorati conspired with each other and others to steal approximately 61 Volkswagen and Audi vehicles that were parked in a lot at the site of the former Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. Once in possession of the stolen vehicles, the defendants and others stored and sold or attempted to sell many of these stolen vehicles. Of those 61 stolen vehicles, the Indictment alleges that 46 left the state of Michigan.
If convicted on the charge of sale or possession of stolen motor vehicles, the defendants each face a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. If convicted on the charge of conspiracy, the defendants each face a maximum penalty of no more than five years in prison and a fine of not more than $250,000.
“The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI have done an outstanding job of working together on this complex criminal case,” United States Attorney Schneider stated. “We are fortunate to have such outstanding public servants on our law enforcement team."
"These indictments are the result of an exceptional collaborative investigation by the FBI's Detroit Metropolitan Identity Theft Task Force and the Oakland County Sheriff Office's Auto-Theft Unit," said SAC Slater. "The FBI is committed to working with our State and County partners to hold those who break the law to account."
“I am grateful for the partnership between our Auto Theft Unit, the FBI, and the US Attorney’s Office who brought this organized auto theft activity to a close,” said Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard. “These individuals were bold in their behavior in stealing such a large volume of vehicles from a well-known location. These criminals deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit. The Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit is comprised of investigators from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, Southfield Police Department, Royal Oak Police Department, Hazel Park Police Department, Farmington Hills Police Department, and Detroit Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Hank Moon.