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'We have a problem': Thornton business owner calls on leaders to address auto thefts

Picture of crash involving Moynahan's stolen truck
Crash involving Mark Moynahan's stolen truck
Posted at 9:17 PM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 00:19:29-04

DENVER — In early May, Denver7 covered the theft of Mark Moynahan’s truck in which two suspects allegedly took off with the vehicle using spare keys in his glove box and got into several hit-and-run crashes, according to police. Moynahan’s new puppy was in the truck when it was stolen, but was gone when the truck was recovered on Colfax after a final collision. The puppy has still not been found.

A spokesperson for the Denver District Attorney’s Office told Denver7 that Paul J. Stephens was charged with second degree trespass to a motor vehicle, which is a lesser charge than auto theft. When asked why this particular charge was pursued, the spokesperson said the office has “an ethical obligation to only file charges we believe we can prove to a jury.”

That answer didn’t sit well with the team at Alpine Glass. It was one of their trucks that Moynahan’s stolen truck collided into on Colfax Avenue, and the employee who had been driving it provided cell phone pictures and videos of the suspects leaving the stolen truck to police.

“They got caught with the damn keys in their hand,” employee Rueben Ramirez said. “If you don’t hold these people responsible, they’re not ever going to do anything [different]. They’re just going to continue to break the law and just keep the same cycle going.”

Colorado is now the number one state in the nation for auto theft, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. In just the first three months of 2022, more than 11,000 vehicles were stolen, according to the Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force. The Denver metro area has seen a 24% increase since the same time frame last year.

Mike Greenwell, a commander with the Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force, told Denver7 it is becoming more common for district attorneys to seek lesser charges in these types of cases, which he believes has had a direct result in increasing theft.

“We have a problem,” said Andy Hanna, owner of Alpine Glass. “We know about it, and nothing’s happening. So something needs to happen.”

Hanna said this is just the latest example of auto theft that has impacted his business and workers. Two company vehicles were stolen last year, he said, including one that was then used in a drive-by shooting. Several employees and their family members have had their personal vehicles stolen or damaged as well.

To express his frustrations, Hanna wrote a letter Tuesday to Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, calling for them to push for tougher action against these crimes.

“What more do I need to say as a taxpaying citizen and business owner?” Hanna read from his letter. “I expect something to be done about this. Prosecute the criminals. Put them in jail.”

Court records show Stephen has been released on bond and is scheduled to appear in court in June.