Stamford Police Arrest Notorious High-End Car Thief In Two-Decade-Old Case

STAMFORD, Conn. -- A smooth-talking car thief who specialized in stealing high-end cars has been charged by Stamford Police in connection with the 1998 theft of an expensive Porsche 911 that he had taken on a test drive from a Greenwich dealership.

Kevin J. Rellah

Kevin J. Rellah

Photo Credit: Stamford Police Department

Kevin J. Rellah, 56, of 98 Rawlinson Drive, Rhode Island, was charged with first-degree larceny and criminal impersonation. He was brought to Stamford court on Friday and his bond was set at $50,000. He is scheduled to return to court on March 10. 

He had been arrested by Stonington police on Jan. 25 for the February 2006 theft of a Ford 350. While on a test drive, the salesman had stepped out of the vehicle and Rellah had sped off, according to The Day newspaper.

Stamford Police said that Rellah, who used the alias of Kevin Biagio Gambino, showed up at the Pray Porsche dealership on West Putnam Avenue in Greenwich on June 25, 1998 and took out a high-end 1997 Porsche 911 for a test drive. He drove with the salesman drove to the Sheraton Hotel in Stamford, according to the affidavit prepared by the long-retired Stamford Police detective. He told the salesman he wanted to have his girlfriend test drive the car and drove it into the hotel's parking area after the salesman stepped out of the car. Rellah then sped away with the vehicle, leaving the salesman to contact police and also explain the theft to his boss.

Rellah was so well known and cut such an intriguing figure that the Los Angeles Times ran a story on him in 1998 after the Secret Service had arrested him.

According to the story, Rellah, had started his career as a teenaged car thief in Warwick, R.I. He had also escaped from custody on at least two occasions, the story said, including picking the lock on his handcuffs in a Maryland county sheriff's van and then ran when it arrived at the courthouse.

The Secret Service arrested him in 1998 because they were investigating cellular phone fraud and Rellah was set up by an accomplice, after which the Secret Service discovered there were seven warrants for his arrest. He would sell the stolen vehicles to drug dealers - and even arranged his own financing for them including his own credit check system - and was about to ship 50 high-end vehicles to shadowy figures in the former Yugoslavia when he was arrested in 1998.

Among the $1 million in vehicles recovered at the time of his 1998 arrest was a 1997 Porsche 911 valued at $145,000 at the time. It's not clear if that was the vehicle stolen from the Greenwich dealership.

He has a decades-long history of car theft up and down the East Coast and was also suspected in Arizona and California thefts, the story said.

In 2015 he was arrested in St. Augustine, FL., following a manhunt after he had pulled a gun on a salesman during a test drive of a 1965 Ford Shelby Cobra. The vehicle was recovered a few days after the theft, according to a story by Jacksonville television station News4Jax.

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