New Jersey authorities have announced the take-down of what they are calling a major international carjacking and stolen car trafficking ring.
They say the group stole luxury cars in New Jersey and New York and shipped them to West Africa.
Approximately 160 stolen cars were recovered and 23 people were arrested on Thursday. Authorities are still looking for six other people.
The cars that were recovered in "Operation Jacked" are worth more than $8 million. Approximately 140 of the cars were recovered at ports in New Jersey and New York where they were awaiting shipment.
The ring targeted high-end vehicles – particularly luxury SUVs – made by Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin.
27 of the recovered vehicles had been taken in carjackings. Authorities say the carjackers would typically be paid $4,000 to $8,000 for a stolen car.
“Carjackers are driven to steal and even to murder by the demand that exists for luxury stolen vehicles,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman.
The crew always had a goal of obtaining keys or key fobs. Carjackers would often target victims by bumping their vehicles from behind on the highway. When victims stopped to address the situation, the carjackers would take their key by force or threat, or simply jump into the vehicle and drive off if the key was left inside.
Thefts also occurred at car washes and at airports, where drivers would leave cars running at terminals and get out to unload luggage. Cars were stolen from manufacturers as they sat on carrier-trailers in lots, and other times keys and cars were stolen from car dealerships.
Thieves would hold up valets to get keys and vehicles, or grab keys from valet boxes. 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 obtain cars through fraud, using bad checks to purchase cars from new and used car dealerships.
While some cars were sold domestically, including in New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Connecticut and Massachusetts, most of them were shipped overseas.
Seven men were charged as leaders of the operation and face felony trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering charges.
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 carjacking. The name of one was withheld becasue he is being sought as a fugitive.
Yves Augustin, 24, of Rahway;
Kurtis Bossie, 22, of Newark.
Three men were charged as shippers in the operation. Marfo is still on the loose:
Standford Oduro, 61, of Bloomfield
Kojo Marfo, 47, of Newark; and
Ahmad Nasidi, 33, of Newark.
Four men were accused of being high-level fences in the operation:
Terrell Savage, 44, of Newark;
Ibn Traynham, 37, of Newark;
Daniel Hunt, 36, of East Orange; and
Steve McGraw, 34, of Newark.
Two others were arrested and allegedly lower level fencers.
Abdur Abdullah, 32, Tuckerton; and
Kyle Botts, 33, of Newark.
Two others were still being sought as fencers.
Eight other men were charged who allegedly acted as carjackers, car thieves and/or wheel men. Of those eight men, six were arrested. The other two are being sought as fugitives and their names were 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; and
Terrell Waller, 25, of Newark;
All of those under arrest had bonds from $100,000 to $1 million.