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Tuesday, 17 March 2015 00:00

NJ Man Sentenced to 12 Years After Involvement in Carjacking Ring That Trafficked High-End Cars to West Africa

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced on March 16 that a Newark man was sentenced to state prison for his role in a major international carjacking ring that stole high-end cars in New Jersey and New York and shipped them to West Africa.

Deandre Stevenson, 43, of Newark, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, including four years of parole ineligibility. Stevenson pleaded guilty to first-degree money laundering and second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon on Sept. 16, 2014. Stevenson served as a fence and car thief for the stolen car trafficking ring.

Investigators recovered roughly 160 stolen cars worth more than $8 million, primarily at ports in New Jersey and New York.

The Division of Criminal Justice indicted 26 defendants on Dec. 18, 2014, on charges including first-degree racketeering. Those defendants included three alleged ringleaders, two alleged shippers for the ring, and 21 associates who fenced cars, committed carjackings and thefts, and acted as wheel men who moved and hid the luxury vehicles. Four defendants, including Stevenson, pleaded guilty before the indictment. The ring targeted high-end vehicles, particularly luxury SUVs made by Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin. Twenty-seven of the recovered vehicles had been taken in carjackings, a majority of which involved a gun or other weapon, while the others were stolen from various locations where the thieves were able to steal them with one or more of their electronic keys or key fobs, which are critical to the resale value of the cars. In West Africa, the luxury vehicles trafficked by the ring commanded prices in excess of new market value in the U.S.

“Through Operation Jacked, we addressed a very dangerous form of street-level crime by locking up ring members who were terrorizing our communities with armed carjackings,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman.

“Carjackings have declined dramatically across the region, thanks to the work of the Essex County Carjacking Task Force, and thanks also to the fact that we dismantled this major criminal enterprise, which was offering the kind of profits that motivated offenders to commit these crimes.”

“Stevenson is one of the first members of this carjacking ring to be sentenced, and he rightfully has received a lengthy prison term,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Many more will follow, because we’ve charged over two dozen defendants with first-degree racketeering. We’re making sure these criminals will not be joining together again to endanger our communities.”

“Stevenson will have 12 years to think about how his actions, and the actions of his co-defendants, have hurt and traumatized victims,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We look forward to the upcoming prosecution of the additional defendants charged as a result of Operation Jacked.”

Individuals filled various roles in the ring, including carjacker, car thief, wheel man, fence, shipper and buyer. Carjackers and thieves, who worked in “theft crews,” would typically be paid $4,000 to $8,000 for a stolen car by street-level fences, who sold cars up the chain to higher-level fences. Shippers would load the cars into shipping containers, which were taken to ports for transport by ship to West Africa. Of the roughly 160 vehicles recovered, 140 were recovered at ports, including Port Newark, Port Elizabeth and Howland Hook Seaport in Staten Island, N.Y. The ring operated in multiple counties in New Jersey, including Essex, Union, Morris, Monmouth, Middlesex, Bergen and Somerset Counties.

Theft crews used various methods to steal cars, including carjackings. They 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. Guns or other weapons were used in a number of carjackings.

Thefts also occurred at carwashes and at airports, where drivers would leave cars running at terminals to unload luggage. In other cases, members of the ring would obtain cars through fraud, using bad checks to buy cars from new and used car dealerships.

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