By Joseph M. Gerace
Twenty-nine men were charged as part of a major international carjacking and stolen car trafficking ring that swiped luxury vehicles in New Jersey and New York and shipped them to West Africa, where they can sell for prices in excess of new market value in the United States.
Twenty-three individuals were arrested Thursday as multi-agency teams executed warrants on charges including first-degree racketeering, carjacking and money laundering. Six fugitives are being sought on warrants, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a release.
“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. 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.”
Approximately 160 stolen cars worth more than $8 million were recovered 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 12 other agencies. Approximately 140 of the cars were recovered at ports in New Jersey and New York where members of the ring delivered them for shipment.
The ring targeted high-end vehicles—particularly luxury SUVs—made by Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin. 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.
Authorities charged seven as leaders of the criminal enterprise. Within the ring, individuals filled various roles, including carjacker, car thief, wheel man, fence, shipper and buyer. Carjackers and thieves, who worked in “theft crews,” were typically paid $4,000 to $8,000 for a stolen car by street-level fences, who sold cars up the chain to higher-level fences. Shippers loaded the cars into shipping containers, which were taken to ports for transport by ship to West Africa, according to Hoffman.
“The more we learn about the sophisticated pipeline between the supply and demand for stolen luxury cars, the better we can choke off that route and disrupt the flow,” said Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The scope of those arrested and charged shows just how organized this dangerous criminal enterprise had become.”
Of the roughly 160 vehicles recovered, 140 were found at ports, including Port Newark, Port Elizabeth and Howland Hook Seaport in Staten Island, N.Y. Investigators believe additional vehicles were being moved by this criminal enterprise, beyond those recovered in the investigation. The ring operated in multiple counties in New Jersey, including Essex, Union, Morris, Monmouth, Middlesex and Bergen.
The investigation revealed a number of individuals exercised leadership roles in the criminal enterprise, and certain defendants associated more closely with particular leaders or individuals within the larger enterprise, according to officials.
Seven men were charged as leaders of the enterprise. They were charged with the second-degree crime of leader of an auto theft trafficking network, as well as first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering and second-degree fencing. The following seven alleged leaders have been arrested. They also allegedly assumed other roles ranging from car thief to high-level fence.
- 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.
Three men were charged with first-degree carjacking. They also were charged with first-degree racketeering, second-degree fencing and second-degree receiving stolen property. The following two were arrested, and the third is being sought as a fugitive. His name is being withheld.
- Yves Augustin, 24, of Rahway;
- Kurtis Bossie, 22, of Newark.
The following three men were charged as shippers. They were charged with first-degree racketeering, second-degree fencing, and either first-degree money laundering or second-degree receiving stolen property. Oduro and Nasidi were arrested. Marfo remains a fugitive.
- Standford Oduro, 61, of Bloomfield
- Kojo Marfo, 47, of Newark; and
- Ahmad Nasidi, 33, of Newark.
The remaining defendants were variously charged with racketeering (first degree), conspiracy (second degree), money laundering (first degree), receiving stolen property (second and third degree), and fencing (second and third degree).
The following four men were charged who allegedly acted as high-level fences.
- Terrell Savage, 44, of Newark;
- Ibn Traynham, 37, of Newark;
- Daniel Hunt, 36, of East Orange; and
- Steve McGraw, 34, of Newark.
Four men were charged who allegedly acted as street-level fences. The following two alleged street-level fences were arrested. The other two are being sought as fugitives and their names are being withheld.
- Abdur Abdullah, 32, Tuckerton; and
- Kyle Botts, 33, of Newark.
Eight other men were charged who allegedly acted as carjackers, car thieves and/or wheel men. Of those eight men, the following six defendants were arrested. The other two are being sought as fugitives and their names are being withheld.
- 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
First-degree racketeering and first-degree money laundering carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison, with a period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed, and a fine of up to $200,000.
First-degree money laundering carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison, including a period of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed, with the sentence to run consecutively to sentences for any other charges, and a fine of up to $500,000.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
The individuals who were arrested were processed and lodged in jail with bails ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.
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