The suspected leader of a multi-state ATM and vehicle theft ring who goes by the moniker ‘Willy Wonka’ has found himself behind bars in Massachusetts instead of a world of pure imagination.
The six-month investigation led by the Essex District Attorney’s Office that resulted in the arrest of career criminal William ‘Willy Wonka’ Rodriguez, also known as ‘the Chocolate Man,’ and four of his alleged accomplices was called Operation ‘Golden Ticket’ and involved 50 law enforcement agencies.
Rodriguez, 47, was held on $500,000 bail after pleading not guilty on Thursday to 60 counts connected to crimes in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut that netted more than $300,000 in stolen property and currency.
Nelson ‘Pito’ Rodriguez, 43, was held on $60,000 bail after pleading not guilty to 44 charges. He and ‘Willy Wonka’ are not related.
Marilyn Santiago, 38, was held on $1,000 bail after pleading not guilty to two counts of accessory after the fact to a felony and conspiracy.
Still at large is Chepiel ‘Chep’ Sanchez, 41, who was indicted on 61 counts, and Ignacio ‘Iggy’ Duran, 41, who was indicted on 10 counts.
The indictments, secretly returned by an Essex Grand Jury on August 20, charge the four male suspects with carrying out 17 commercial and ATM burglaries and stealing 12 cars as part of their theft ring between February 9 and April 21.
During their crime spree, the crooks targeted five bank ATMS, two gas stations, a car rental business, a gym, two cell phone stores, a wheel repair shop and two convenience stores.
William Rodriguez’s attorney agreed with bail. Nelson Rodriguez’s attorney said his client deserves the ‘dignity’ of going home on bail.
‘I am extremely proud of the work of my prosecutors and Massachusetts State Police assigned to my office who worked tirelessly to investigate this string of unsolved burglaries taking place throughout the region,’ District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said.
All suspects are due back in Salem Superior Court on October 11.