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Alleged car-theft ‘kingpins’ arrested over weekend, police say

MADISON (WKOW) — Madison police announced Monday they had arrested two leaders of a group that allegedly stole vehicles in many communities across multiple counties.

Over the weekend, police arrested Cleaster L. Moon, 24, and Joshua E. Pitts, 17, both from Madison, according to Madison Police Department spokesperson Joel DeSpain.

Moon was arrested Saturday on multiple charges, including receiving stolen property, credit card theft, burglary and resisting after police responded to six Shorewood Hills burglaries.

Officers say they apprehended Moon after a foot chase through Madison later in the night.

Pitts is charged with burglary and fleeing an officer after police responded to the Radisson on Grand Canyon Drive at 9:11 a.m. Sunday when they found a stolen vehicle there. Two 15-year-olds were also taken into police custody during that incident, according to a Madison police incident report.

Police say the two young men are leaders of a car-theft ring they believe has been targeting communities in Dane and surrounding counties.

“These two just always reemerged over and over again in videos, driving the cars, they were two of the more predominant names and faces that kept showing up,” said Officer Nicholas Cleary.

Cleary has been following Moon’s criminal activity for nearly his entire decade with MPD and describes his arrest as a turning point in the investigation. As a neighborhood resource officer, he says it’s become clear who is ‘running the show’ in these crimes.

“Those two are influential over the others. And they’re leaders by nature. So other people follow,” he said.

Last summer, Moon was arrested after a high-speed police chase led to a crash in Madison, just one of dozens of incidents where police are looking into a connection.

Cleary organized a meeting a few weeks ago between multiple departments across Wisconsin, to try to put an end to the thefts and burglaries.

“We just went day-by-day to see what agencies had cases on particular days, show a timeline,” he told 27 News. “We could literally draw a map, where they were going and where they’ve been.”

Last Wednesday, authorities in Waukesha County filed charges against Moon and Pitts related to a burglary and theft in that area, issuing a warrant for their arrest.

Despite the arrests over the weekend, officers say their work is far from over. Police across southern Wisconsin will continue working together, trying to make connections between the cases. The state Division of Criminal Investigation is also getting involved.

“I’m not gonna say this is over by any stretch, there’s a ton of stuff to work on. There’s more people that have been IDed over the weekend that are apprehended or weren’t even known to be involved, but I think we made a dent in things,” Cleary said.

Plus, police say homeowners still need to be vigilant, making sure to close garage doors and lock up their houses.

Police previously gave a different age for Joshua Pitts, which has been corrected in this version of the story. 

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

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