Man arrested for ROC airport car part thefts
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHAM) - Surveillance photos obtained by 13WHAM News led police to the man suspected of stealing tires off a vehicle parked in the airport parking garage over the Christmas holiday. Harry Coates III has been charged with a second theft in the garage and may have been operating a "ring."
Investigators say Coates took "orders' for high-demand auto parts, like Cadillac wheels, then paid others to steal them. Yet it's a third theft- discovered by 13WHAM's Jane Flasch that may have led investigators to their suspect. "I'm very happy someone has been arrested in this case," said Heather Evans, who returned from a trip to Florida to find she could not drive her truck out of the parking garage because it was missing two wheels.
Two identical tires were taken from another vehicle at Atlas Auto, perhaps on the same day. "They got two from me and two from them on the same day with the same type of vehicle," said business owner Greg Kosko. It turns out his theory may be right.
After hearing about the theft of Escalade wheels at the airport, he pulled photos captured by his security camera on Christmas Day and shared them with 13WHAM News. In them, you can see a man carrying in a jack and carrying out two wheels. It's alleged he was hired by Coates. Investigators familiar with the case say he operates a loose "chop shop" type theft ring by taking orders for parts then stealing them.
Also stolen from the parking garage at the Greater Rochester International Airport was a tailgate from a pickup truck. "He did admit he did the thefts," said Captain Paul DeLella of the Monroe County Sheriff's Department. And he may have gotten away with it - if not for additional security photos of the getaway car used at Atlas Auto.
13WHAM News shared that photo with police, who were able to track the license plate to a car that wasn't operable. "They weren't using the car, so they would never have known that the plates were taken. Then he put them back after he used them,' said Captain DeLella.
Yet once investigators learned Coates had access to the vehicle, investigators located him. According to court papers he "made admissions to committing" the crimes. "I think that's crazy, and I'm glad they were able to catch him," said Evans. She is hopeful her property will be returned, but says airport officials have provided her with forms to make a claim for damages.
Patrols inside the airport parking garages have also been increased as a result of the thefts. Investigators say Coates did not use a vehicle in the airport thefts, so it would not show up on security cameras at the airport's entrance and exit.
He is charged with two counts of grand larceny and auto stripping for the airport thefts and is expected to be charged in relation to the theft at Atlas Auto. Authorities admit it may not have happened - or at least not this quickly- if not for those surveillance images. "The person who got the video shared it. The news media was helpful," said Captain Delella. "We can't do it alone."