TOTOWA, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Authorities in New Jersey have busted an international carjacking ring, in which suspects are accused of targeting drivers along Route 17.
Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman announced the charges against 21 people on Wednesday.
As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, the suspects alleged targeted luxury vehicles in both New Jersey and New York.
As WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported, the thieves mostly targeted luxury cars in suburban communities between Monmouth County in New Jersey and Rockland County in New York.
In particular, authorities said the suspects targeted towns in Bergen County, New Jersey, CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported.
“The criminals in this ring scouted golf courses, pricey restaurants, malls and suburban driveways,” Hoffman said.
They allegedly stole an assortment of high-end vehicles – including Bentleys and Range Rovers, Mercedes Benzes and BMWs – and for illegal shipment in containers to West Africa.
A total of 21 suspects were charged, and 18 of them were in custody Wednesday afternoon, police said. Three remained at large.
Hoffman said the suspects worked in teams and had different roles. Some were leaders, some street-level fences, while others carjacked vehicles in front of homes, police said.
Hoffman described the case of one man who was carjacked in Montclair, New Jersey.
“When a carjacker approached him, reached behind his back with his waistband as if to grab a gun, ordering the victim to surrender his keys, the victim complied and ran for his life,” Hoffman said.
The ring was the second busted since attorney Dustin Friedland was carjacked and murdered at the Short Hills Mall almost two years ago.
There is a demand for luxury cars in West Africa, where they sell for three times the value. But new technology involving push-button starts and new key fobs makes hot-wiring newer cars virtually impossible, authorities said.
Thus, confrontations are more violent because criminals need the keys.
“I would probably just give up the keys,” said Lauren Mielich of Ridgewood, New Jersey. “I don’t want to get harmed because of that.”
Hoffman said the last takedown cut carjackings near Newark by two-thirds.
“I expect this also to have a dramatic impact,” he added.
But, given apparent demand in West Africa, Hoffman said he expects more carjacking rings to surface.
Some of the recovered cars will be sent back to insurance companies that have paid claims, while others will go back to owners who have not received their money.
The Attorney General’s office said a small number of carjackings turned violent in the latest cases, but no one was killed.
The defendants charged included three men identified as leaders:
• Tyja Evans, 39, of Watchung, New Jersey;
• Ibn Jones, 37, of Newark, New Jersey; and
• Eddie Craig, 36, of Beverly, New Jersey.
Five more were identified as shippers and high-level fencers:
• Peter Cleland, 32, of East Orange, New Jersey;
• Sowah Anan, 31, of Elizabeth, New Jersey;
• Manuel Oliveres, 44, of Jersey City, New Jersey;
• Adama Fofana, 53, of the Bronx; and
• Alpha Jalloh, 26, of Manhattan.
Panel Dalace, 43, of South Orange, New Jersey was identified as a high-level fence and re-tagger of vehicles.
Four others were identified as street-level fences.
• Frazier Gibson, 29, of East Orange, New Jersey;
• Eric Aikens, 40, of Newark, New Jersey;
• Lavell Burnett, 38, of Newark, New Jersey; and
• Damion Mikell, 32, of Newark, New Jersey.
Another eight were named as carjackers, car thieves or wheel men:
• Nasir Turner, 36, of Newark, New Jersey;
• Derrick Moore, 36, of Keansburg, New Jersey;
• Kenneth Daniels, 29, of Newark, New Jersey;
• Tyree Johnson, 22, of Newark, New Jersey;
• Donnel Carroll, 28, of Newark, New Jersey;
• Khalil Culbreath, 38, of Newark, New Jersey;
• Terrence Wilson, 39, of Newark, New Jersey; and
• Marquis Price, 32, of Newark, New Jersey.
Daniels, Carroll and Culbreath remained at large late Wednesday.
The charges against them include first-degree racketeering, carjacking and money laundering.
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