YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: An international ring stole and carjacked luxury vehicles in New Jersey and New York and shipped them to West Africa, where they sold for significantly above the sticker price here, authorities said today in announcing a takedown of the operation and the recovery of 140 cars worth more than $8 million.
Six fugitives remained at large, while 23 have been arrested and charged in “Operation Jacked,” a 10-month investigation led by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police, assisted by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and a dozen other agencies (see below).
Charges include racketeering, carjacking and money laundering, among other counts, with bails ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.
The ring targeted high-end vehicles – particularly luxury SUVs – made by Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin, and operated in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Middlesex, Monmouth and Union counties, acting NJ Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
Of the roughly 160 vehicles recovered, 140 were found at ports — among them, Port Newark, Port Elizabeth and Howland Hook Seaport in Staten Island, N.Y.
Twenty-seven of the recovered vehicles had been taken in carjackings — a majority of which involved a gun or other weapon — while the others were stolen from various locations where the thieves were able to steal them with one or more of their electronic keys or key fobs, which are critical to the resale value of the cars, he said.
Some of the crews targeted victims by bumping their cars from behind, getting them to stop and get out to exchange insurance information, Hoffman said.
They then stole the cars either by force — or simply jumping in and driving off if the key was left in the ignition, he said.
Thefts also occurred at car washes and at airports, where drivers left cars running at terminals while unloading luggage.
Cars were stolen from manufacturers as they sat on carrier-trailers in lots, and other times from car dealerships.
Valets at restaurants and other businesses were held up, so the thieves could ransack key boxes.
They also scouted wealthy neighborhoods for unlocked high-end cars that had a key fob left in the glove box.
And, finally, some wrote bum checks to buy the cars from new and used car dealers.
The crews ordinarily stored — or “cooled off” — freshly stolen cars for while in hospital parking garages, long-term parking garages, residential backyards, warehouses and private storage garages to make sure they weren’t equipped with tracking devices that could draw police to them, Hoffman said.
Once a vehicle was sufficiently “cooled,” it was moved to a fence, he said.
The stolen cars typically moved through at least two levels of fences before reaching their ultimate destinations, authorities said.
Carjackers and thieves, who worked in “theft crews,” typically were paid $4,000 to $8,000 per vehicle by street-level fences, who sold cars up the chain to higher-level fences, Hoffman said. Fences often used “wheel men” to drive the vehicles to different spots while prices were being negotiated, they said.
Shippers then loaded the cars into containers, which were taken to various ports for transport by ship to West Africa, he said.
Although most of the cars where shipped overseas, some were sold in New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Connecticut and Massachusetts, Hoffman said.
Shippers who sent cars across the ocean completed false bills of lading, misrepresenting the contents of the containers, he said.
Hoffman, along with officials from several of the agencies involved, announced the results of “Operation Jacked” during a news conference in Totowa early this afternoon.
Attending today’s news conference with Hoffman and representatives of other participating agencies were:
State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes;
NJ Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig;
Port Authority Police Department Superintendent Michael Fedorko;
ICE Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Andrew McLees
“Carjackers are driven to steal and even to murder by the demand that exists for luxury stolen vehicles,” Hoffman said.
“This ring we took down was a double threat,” he said. “Its members committed carjackings that put the public in grave danger, while at the same time, through their fencing and shipping operations, they created demand that motivated others to commit carjackings.
“We hit them hard from both ends, completely dismantling their operations.”
The more authorities learn about “the sophisticated pipeline between the supply and demand for stolen luxury cars,” said Fuentes, the State Police superintendent, “the better we can choke off that route and disrupt the flow.”
Authorities said those arrested or sought include:
Leon Nii-Moi, 35, of Roselle;
Kyle Champagnie, 27, of Irvington;
Saladine Grant, 39, of Irvington;
James Hemphill, 41, of Belleville;
Omar Smith, 39, of Newark;
Demarco Sparks, 40, of Newark; and
Deandre Stevenson, 41, of Newark.
Standford Oduro, 61, of Bloomfield
Kojo Marfo, 47, of Newark (fugitive);
Ahmad Nasidi, 33, of Newark.
Terrell Savage, 44, of Newark;
Ibn Traynham, 37, of Newark;
Daniel Hunt, 36, of East Orange; and
Steve McGraw, 34, of Newark.
Abdur Abdullah, 32, Tuckerton;
Kyle Botts, 33, of Newark; and
Two fugitives still being sought.
CARJACKERS, CAR THIEVES, WHEELMEN:
Malik Baker, 20, of Vauxhall;
Nathaniel Barnes, 31, of Irvington;
Kevin Burton, 34, of Newark;
Abdul Dailey III, 33, of Montclair;
Johnnie Davila, 26, of Newark;
Terrell Waller, 25, of Newark; and
Yves Augustin, 24, of Rahway;
Kurtis Bossie, 22, of Newark;
The name of a third man, a fugitive, was being withheld.
The participating agencies:
New Jersey State Police
New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice:
Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police Department
ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Newark (Border Enforcement Security Task Force)
Union County Prosecutor’s Office
Essex County Prosecutor’s Office
Massachusetts State Police
Delaware State Police
Connecticut State Police
Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
Manalapan Police Department
Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office
U.S. Customs & Border Protection
Bayonne Police Department
Hudson County Sheriff’s Office
U.S. Marshals Service
“Valuable assistance also was provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau,” Hoffman added.
According to Hoffman:
The investigation was conducted for the New Jersey State Police by members of the Auto Unit and other members of the Special Investigations Section, including Detective Sgt. Aaron Auclair, Detective Sgt. Jeovanny Rodriguez, Detective Sgt. 1st Class Enrique Bryan, Detective Cory Rodriguez and Trooper Nicholas Rubino.
The lead case prosecutors in the DCJ’s Specialized Crimes Bureau are Deputy Attorney General Anthony Torntore and Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad, Senior Counsel in the Specialized Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jill Mayer, Deputy Division Director Christopher Romanyshyn and Division Director Elie Honig.
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