18-year-old sentenced to a year in prison for 4-wheel-drive thefts

August 03, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A Columbia man has been sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to 11 charges for his part in the theft of at least 23 four-wheel-drive vehicles in December and January.

Alexi Pascal Martinez, 18, of the 9300 block of Gentle Folk also was ordered to pay more than $9,000 in restitution to 11 victims as part of a plea agreement he accepted on Monday in Howard Circuit Court.

Martinez pleaded guilty to two counts of theft, one count of attempted theft and eight counts of unauthorized use of a vehicle.

The prosecution dropped 99 other charges -- including multiple counts of theft, attempted theft, malicious destruction and unauthorized use -- as part of the plea agreement.

Judge Raymond Kane Jr. sentenced Martinez to 15 years for the theft counts but suspended all but one year. The judge then sentenced Martinez to four years for the unauthorized-use counts, but suspended all but one year.

Martinez will be permitted to serve the sentences simultaneously. He also will be required to complete five years of supervised probation.

Judge Kane ordered Martinez to pay the Columbia Association $3,993 for damage he and four co-defendants caused at Lake Elkhorn, where they reportedly went joy riding with the stolen vehicles.

Martinez also must pay the vehicles' owners a total of $5,014 for damage to the vehicles. The victims will receive between $59 and $2,179.

Four co-defendants, including an 18-year-old Columbia youth described by one prosecutor as the "guru" of county car thieves, are awaiting trial in Circuit Court.

Christopher James Peca, the alleged leader of the auto theft gang, is scheduled for trial on Sept. 19.

Two other defendants -- Keith Richard Burton and Adam Matthew Fattori, both 18 and of Columbia -- are scheduled for trials on Aug. 31. The case of a 16-year-old co-defendant is being handled in juvenile court.

The defendants, members of an automobile club called the Low Riders, are accused of stealing a total of 23 vehicles from Columbia in December and January.

They are accused of taking the vehicles, mostly Jeep Cherokees and Chevrolet Blazers, on joy rides that often culminated in a trip to Lake Elkhorn in Columbia's Owen Brown village. Here, the participants would play what they called "crash-up derby" and "bumper cars," according to police.

Police allege that those involved wrecked at least eight of the stolen vehicles at Lake Elkhorn and caused about $12,000 in property damage at the park.

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