An Atlanta club promoter will spend the next five years in prison after being found guilty of participating in a scheme to acquire stolen vehicles, according to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade.
Superior Court Judge David T. Emerson sentenced Chikezie Solomon Ananaba, of Douglasville, Monday to a term of 15 years, with the first five years to be served in prison. He will also be required to pay $20, 375 in restitution.
Ananaba, 29, was convicted by a jury on March 2nd of Theft by Receiving a Stolen Vehicle and Possession of a Vehicle with an Altered Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
Assistant District Attorney Rachel Ackley explained that authorities discovered the defendant’s “cloned” Mercedes Benz CLS on December 13, 2010, after becoming aware of an out-of-state vehicle with the same VIN number. A test conducted on a computer located inside the vehicle revealed the car’s real VIN number, which came back as stolen from a dealership in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
An expert witness described “cloning” as attaching a duplicate authentic VIN number on a stolen vehicle to hide the car’s real identity. In this case, the expert explained, the VIN plates on the windshield and door post of the stolen Mercedes Benz were changed to an authentic Mercedes Benz serial number.
Ananaba contested that he legally purchased the Mercedes Benz “off the street” for $20,000 in cash – far less than the $45,000 value of the used car. The defendant, a former car salesman, testified that a guy named “Kadafi” brokered the deal, and that he paid the money to a middle man named “Bishop.”
However, both men could not be identified by Ananaba, who couldn’t give a last name, phone number or address for the two men to Assistant District Attorney Ackley. He also admitted to not having a title for the Mercedes Benz. Evidence later showed that Ananaba was tied to two other cloned cars — a Cadillac Escalade claimed on his insurance and a BMW registered in his name.
“This is not an isolated incident,” said Assistant District Attorney Ackley during the sentencing hearing. “It’s not a case where there was a good chance Mr. Ananaba didn’t know what was going on. He testified that he worked at the Team Toyota dealership, and that one of his responsibilities at that dealership was to register cars for the customers who bought them through Team Toyota…He’s not some 18-year-old kid who has never bought a car before and didn’t know how the process worked. The defendant knew exactly what was going on.”