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Key figure in theft ring spared prison

A Fort Wayne man avoided prison Friday when he was given a suspended prison sentence for his role in a motorcycle theft ring.

Todd Vonderau, 41, was sentenced to four years in prison but that time was suspended and instead he was given a two-year term of probation.

This month, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to knowingly alter a vehicle identification number. An additional charge of corrupt business influence was dismissed.

Last August, police began to investigate whether Vonderau was operating a motorcycle theft ring at his car lot, Kasper Auto Sales, 2750 Brooklyn Ave. The motorcycles were stolen and sold after being repainted and sometimes fitted with a vehicle identification number belonging to a different motorcycle. Documents such as fraudulent bills of sale were created through the auto lot to make it appear as though the motorcycles were legitimately bought, court records said.

When police searched addresses connected to the thefts, they found a number of stolen vehicles, including motorcycles, a tow truck and cars, according to court documents. Six people were arrested and charged after police began to uncover how the ring worked.

In the past year, most involved have pleaded guilty through agreements that allowed them to avoid prison time. Instead, they serve time on probation or work release, some with hefty restitutions to pay.