SOMERVILLE, NJ – One of two suspects who police say switched key fobs to steal two Mercedes from a Route 22 auto dealer has been found guilty of multiple charges by a Somerset County Jury.
Luis Lora, 36, of W. 36th Street, Union City was found guilty of the third degree theft of an automobile, second degree eluding, second degree aggravated assault during the course of an eluding, and third degree aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Micheal H. Robertson. The jury deliberated approximately two hours before delivering the verdict.
The second suspect remains at large.
Robertson provided the following account:
Lora and a second suspect, indentified as his brother-in-law, Matia Morel-Diaz, met with a salesperson at Open Road Mercedes in Bridgewater near closing time on June 25, 2013 and looked at two pre-owned vehicles, a blue 2010 E550, and silver 2012 S550. At some point, they were able to switch out the real key fobs of the cars and returned phony ones to the sales associate, Robertson said..
The following morning at 2 a.m. they walked onto the dealership lot and drove off in the same two vehicles; a security company that monitors the cameras at the dealership alerted the Bridgewater Police.
Bridgewater Sergeant Michael Maxwell spotted the two stolen automobiles as they were on the nearby entrance ramp to Interstate 287 South. He positioned his vehicle behind the blue one and signaled for it to pull over. The silver car continued south on 287. Officer Brian Schubert continued after the silver car. When Maxwell walked up to the blue car, it sped off. When Schubert learned that the blue car had sped off he slowed down. The blue Mercedes closed in on Schubert’s vehicle and rammed the rear of the police car, causing it to spin out of control, finally crashing into the guardrail.
The blue Mercedes came to a stop in the grass median. When other officers approached the Mercedes they discovered that the driver had fled. Schubert suffered injuries as a result of the crash and was out of work for more than a month.
The case remained unsolved for several months.
Detectives were able to track down Lora from a cell phone that was left in the car after obtaining a search warrant. Fingerprints were also discovered on the vehicle and items inside the car.
The vehicle’s deployed airbag and a baseball cap discovered inside the vehicle were processed by New Jersey State Police Office forensic specialists A single DNA profile was developed from the airbag, and the baseball cap was discovered to contain a mixture of two people’s DNA. The forensic specialists determined the DNA from the airbag and the DNA that was the major source from the cap belonged to Lora, who was on file in the NJSP database. A subsequent court ordered sample of defendant’s DNA was obtained directly from him. The sample was an exact match of the DNA found on the airbag and of the major source from the cap.
Several of the identifiable fingerprints found on the vehicle belonged to Diaz. An arrest warrant was issued for him.
Lora's $75,000 bail has been revoked; he is lodged in the Somerset County Jail pending sentencing scheduled for December 8, 2017. Lora faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, with eleven years to be served without parole.
The State was represented by Chief Somerset County Assistant Prosecutor Robert J. Hawkes and Somerset County Assistant Prosecutor Nicole A. McGrath, with the assistance of Assistant Paralegal Supervisor Ellen Kimmel-Kirschbaum.