| TOTOWA, NJ
TOTOWA, NJ Feb 27 A group of 32 men was charged
on Thursday with running an international carjacking ring that
stole luxury vehicles in New York and New Jersey and shipped
them to West Africa for resale, state authorities said.
More than 160 cars, worth more than $8 million, have been
recovered, most of them at ports in New York and New Jersey
where they were set to be shipped out of the country, New Jersey
acting Attorney General John Hoffman announced at a news
conference at the Totowa, New Jersey, State Police station.
Prosecutors said the suspects, working in crews, would take
vehicles at gunpoint or steal them from suburban neighborhoods
using electronic keys or key fobs. For more than a year, they
have worked largely in northern New Jersey, they said.
The ring targeted high-end vehicles, especially luxury
sports utility vehicles, such as Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW,
Honda, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin, they said.
The stolen cars were sold in West Africa at prices well
above their new market value in the United States.
The carjackers sometimes would target victims by bumping
their vehicles on a highway and, when the victim would pull
over, taking the vehicle by force, prosecutors said.
They also would steal vehicles at car washes and at airport
terminals where drivers might leave their engines running while
they unloaded luggage, they said.
Some cars were stolen from dealerships, they said.
"This ring we took down was a double threat," Hoffman 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."
Authorities said the ring had no known connection to a
high-profile local carjacking in December at the Mall at Short
Hills, where a 30-year-old attorney was murdered while holiday
shopping with his wife. Four men have been charged in that case.
Of those charged on Thursday, 26 men were arrested and
warrants were issued for six men who remain fugitives,
Most of the suspects live in or near Newark, New Jersey.
Seven were accused of being leaders of the ring and charged
with racketeering, money laundering, fencing and other charges.
The racketeering and money laundering charges carry
potential prison sentences of 20 years.
Others were charged with carjacking, racketeering or
receiving stolen property.
Authorities did not provide any information on attorneys for
The ring was busted following a 10-month investigation
called Operation Jacked, led by the New Jersey State Police and
state Division of Criminal Justice with help from the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, federal
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, state police in
Massachusetts, Delaware and Connecticut, U.S. Customs & Border
Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service and local county
prosecutors and police.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Diane Craft)