After a 16-month investigation, authorities announced Wednesday that they have arrested 19 men from New Jersey and New York believed to be responsible for stealing at least 90 vehicles valued at over $4 million. Three of the twenty-two men charged have yet to be arrested and are considered to be fugitives. Initially, the Attorney General’s office identified 21 people, though the office later announced that a 22nd person has also been charged. Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said that 90 cars were recovered during “Operation 17 Corridor”, a 16-month investigation that involved several law enforcement agencies. On Tuesday, nineteen of the men were arrested on various charges that included carjacking, money laundering and first-degree racketeering.
Hoffman said the criminal organization stole the majority of the high-end vehicles in New Jersey, spanning multiple counties along the Route 17 corridor. These counties include: Bergen, Essex, Hunterdon, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Somerset, Union and Rockland County in NY.
Hoffman said in a statement,
“The criminals in this ring scouted golf courses, pricey restaurants, malls and suburban driveways to find the specific luxury cars they coveted, working in teams to commit armed carjackings and other thefts. While fortunately we have not had anyone shot or murdered during a carjacking in this case, we’ve seen in other cases how quickly things can turn deadly when carjackers carry out the type of armed ambush this ring committed. We’ve completely dismantled this dangerous network and charged its members with first-degree crimes.” Strikingly similar to the plot of the popular movie, Gone in 60 Seconds, the criminal ring focused on the demand for specific vehicles. Within the ring, individuals filled various roles, including carjacker, car thief, wheel man, fence, shipper and buyer. The types of vehicles they had frequently targeted included various models of Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Maserati, Porsche, Jaguar and Bentley.
The criminal organization used a variety of methods for how they obtained possession of the targeted cars. Some of the vehicles stolen were carried out through carjackings. Other vehicles were stolen with electronic keys or key fobs, which is an important factor in the resale value of the cars. They scouted wealthy neighborhoods, car dealerships and airport parking lots, among many other locations.
According to a news release from the Office of the Attorney General,
“Cars were stolen from gas stations, convenience stores, carwashes and airports, where the drivers got out and left vehicles running. Other cars were stolen from car dealerships. Thieves also would search wealthy neighborhoods and find high-end cars unlocked with the key fob in the glove box. In other cases, individuals in the ring would use fraudulent credit cards with stolen or fictitious identities to rent desired cars from car rental agencies and simply never return them. Of the cars recovered, 19 were rental cars. Some of the cars would be “retagged” with new vehicle identification numbers and taken to another state, where new titles and temporary tags were obtained. In this way the stolen cars were essentially “laundered.” A total of 17 of the stolen cars that were recovered had been retagged.”
Once the cars had been stolen, the crew would typically store or “cool off” the vehicles in commercial warehouses, airport parking lots, apartment complexes and residential backyards. The individuals responsible for exporting would load the cars into shipping containers, where they were then shipped to West Africa.
Of the 90 vehicles found, 23 were recovered at ports the criminal enterprise used to ship, including Port Newark, Port Elizabeth, Global Terminal in Bayonne, and the Howland Hook Seaport in Staten Island, N.Y.
However, not all of the vehicles were shipped to West Africa. Authorities recovered some of the vehicles in Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Georgia, Texas, and New Jersey. The AG’s office said their multi-agency team branched out to execute the arrest warrants. The investigation was primarily lead by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police, the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York, ICE Homeland Security Investigations.
Special Agent Kevin Kelly of HSI Newark said in a statement,
“These individuals were part of an elaborate ring of international car thieves. By working together on the Border Enforcement Security Task Force, we are able to multiply our resources and build on our commitment to the protection of American people on a local and national level.”
All 22 of the individuals involved have been charged with first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, and second- or third-degree receiving stolen property and fencing. The individuals who were arrested are currently in jail with bails ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.Photo Courtesy of NJ.GovThe list below describes what authorities believe the primary roles of the men charged to be:Operation Leaders
- Tyja Evans, 39, of Watchung,
- Ibn Jones, 37, of Newark
- Eddie Craig, 36, of Beverly
Shippers and High-Level Fences
- Peter Cleland, 32, of East Orange
- Sowah Anan, 31, of Elizabeth
- Manuel Oliveres, 44, of Jersey City
- Adama Fofana, 53, of the Bronx, N.Y.
- Alpha Jalloh, 26, of New York, N.Y.
Higher-Level Fence and Retagger of Vehicles
- Panel Dalce, 43, of South Orange
- Street-Level Fences
- Frazier Gibson, 29, of East Orange
- Eric Aikens, 40, of Newark
- Lavell Burnett, 38, of Newark
- Damion Mikell, 32, of Newark
Carjackers, Car Thieves and Wheel Men
- Nasir Turner, 36, of Newark
- Derrick Moore, 36, of Keansburg
- *Kenneth Daniels, 29, of Newark (fugitive)
- Tyree Johnson, 22, of Newark
- *Donnel Carroll, 28, of Newark (fugitive)
- *Khalil Culbreath, 38, of Newark (fugitive)
- Terrence Wilson, 39, of Newark
- Marquis Price, 32, of Newark
- Alterquie Jones, 40, of Maplewood