A luxury carjacking ring has been busted in New York and New Jersey, leading to 26 men being arrested and 32 men being charged on Thursday.
The international carjacking ring had reportedly targeted luxury vehicles in New York and New Jersey, which were shipped to West Africa for resale, NJ.com reported.
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According to police, more than 160 cars were stolen in a little over a year by the carjacking ring, amounting to $8 million in stolen vehicles. The thieves reportedly focused on high-end vehicles, especially luxury sports utility vehicles made by Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Jaguar, and Aston Martin.
Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman told reporters that the carjackers employed several unlawful measures to acquire the cars, stealing them from dealerships, airports or car washes while the vehicle was running as well as robbing valets at gunpoint in the parking lots of expensive restaurants.
NJ.com reported the carjackers were also known to have bumped the back of vehicles while on the road. When the driver pulled over to assess the minor damage, he or she would be greeted with a handgun by the individual who had bumped him.
"This ring we took down was a double threat," Hoffman told reporters Thursday. "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."
According to Hoffman, as of Thursday, 26 men were arrested while warrants were issued for an additional six men who remain fugitives, Reuters reported
The 10-month investigation was called "Operation Jacked" and was led by the New Jersey State Police and state Division of Criminal Justice. Both agencies reportedly received help from various local and federal agencies.
The majority of the vehicles were recovered at Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal and the Howland Hook Marine Terminal in Staten Island, N.Y., NJ.com reported.
According to police, the operation's seven ringleaders were Leon Nii-Moi, 35, Kyle Champagnie, 27, Saladine Grant, 39, James Hemphil, 41, Omar Smith, 39, Demarco Sparks, 40, and Deandre Stevenson, 41.
The alleged ringleaders were reportedly charged with racketeering, money laundering, fencing, and other charges. Racketeering and money laundering charges alone carry potential prison sentences of 20 years, according to Reuters.
The carjackers were reportedly paid between $4,000 and $8,000 for each car they stole. The majority of the suspects are said to have lived in or near Newark, N.J.
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