Mother and son car thieves head to prison

Elizabeth Leonardo

Richard DeMatteo

VOORHEESVILLE —A Slingerlands mother and her son were sentenced to state prison in Albany County Court this week, after they pleaded guilty to stealing cars from area dealership

Richard DeMatteo, 20, pleaded guilty on June 18 to criminal possession of stolen property and grand larceny, both felonies. He was sentenced this week to two-and-a-third to seven years, in addition to a concurrent state prison term of one-and-a-third to four years.

His mother and co-defendant, 52-year-old Elizabeth Leonardo, pleaded guilty on June 19 to criminal possession of stolen property, a felony. She was also sentenced this week to one-and-two-thirds to fives, years in state prison.

As part of the sentence, DeMatteo must make restitution for stolen copper coils, gas, and both recovered vehicles. Leonardo must pay joint restitution for the theft of a Honda CRV.

 “Both defendants in this case took advantage of their victims through deception and false pretenses” stated Albany District Attorney David Soares. “When it came to exercising good judgement, no one was home; and now no one will be home at the Dematteo/Leonardo residence for several years.”

The Albany District Attorney’s Office reported the two defendants posed as potential car buyers on March 8 at Rensselaer Auto Plaza and test drove a vehicle.

“Upon returning from the test drive, Leonardo and DeMatteo would switch keys and return to the car lot after hours and steal a vehicle which fit the key,” reported the district attorney’s office.

The Honda CRV stolen from the lot on March 8 was valued at $25,379, said officials, claiming the two kept the vehicle, driving it with the stolen dealer plates until April 17, when police located it.

DeMatteo faced additional charges for committing a similar crime between the late-night hours of April 16 and the early morning of April 17 when he stole a 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo, worth an estimated $24,305, from Fuccillo Hyundai, reported prosecutors.

Sometime later that day, on April 17, DeMatteo drove the stolen Veloster to a New Scotland gas station, put gas in the car, and then left without paying, said prosecutors. On the vehicle at the time was a stolen dealer license plate from Orange Ford.  When an Orange Ford employee was dispatched to the station to pay for the gas, he just happened to cross paths with DeMatteo driving the stolen vehicle and followed him to a parking lot at the Shop Rite in Slingerlands where he witnessed the DeMetteo removing the plates, said the district attorney’s office.

Also later that day, DeMatteo was observed driving the same stolen Volester at another dealership, DePaula Chevolet in the city of Albany. When a dealership employee noticed the plate, he began to question DeMatteo. When the man took the suspicious plate, DeMatteo sped off in the car as the employee was clinging to it, causing minor injuries to the man, reported prosecutors. 

Though the Albany City Police and Albany County Sheriff’s Office were investigating the incidents, another unrelated crime committed two days earlier, on April 15, was already being examined by the Bethlehem Police and helped lead to DeMatteo’s arrest.

Bethlehem officers were investigating a theft at Lowe’s in Glenmont involving a customer stealing multiple containers of copper coils estimated to be worth $1,854. Police said the suspect left the store in the stolen Honda CRV and that an in-store security camera recorded DeMatteo stealing the items.

While Bethlehem Police were looking into that crime, they discovered the stolen Hyundai Veloster in a Shop Rite parking lot in Slingerlands. When police eventually identified DeMatteo on April 17, the same day he reportedly stole the Hyundai Veloster, officers traveled to his home and also discovered the stolen CRV, reported the Bethlehem police.

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