The indictment, which was returned yesterday, stems from Operation Midnight Run, a long-term investigation by the New Jersey State Police Interstate Theft North Unit, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Border Enforcement Security Task Force.
The Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau obtained an 11-count state grand jury indictment that charges all 12 defendants with first-degree conspiracy. Eleven of the defendants also are charged with first-degree money laundering, second-degree theft by unlawful taking, second-degree fencing, second-degree receiving stolen property, and third-degree burglary. The first-degree money laundering charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in state prison.
The 12 members of the cargo theft ring allegedly worked together in various combinations to steal tractor-trailers containing cargo from the tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. They allegedly brought the stolen cargo to warehouses and lots in New Jersey, Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Bronx, N.Y. The indictment alleges that between June 2012 and April 2015, the defendants allegedly engaged in nine thefts and two purchases of additional stolen goods in which the total value of the cargo and tractor-trailers stolen exceeded $1.5 million. The stolen cargo ran the gamut from $120,000 worth of catalytic converters, which allegedly were stolen in Linden, N.J., and recovered by investigators at a warehouse in Saddle Brook, N.J.; to $165,000 worth of Moroccanoil hair and body products stolen in Allentown, Pa., and transported through New Jersey to a lot in the Bronx, N.Y.; to $152,000 worth of GNC fish oil capsules stolen in Paterson, N.J. and recovered at a furniture store in Hillside, N.J.
“We allege that this ring was stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cargo and transporting it through New Jersey on a regular basis so that they could fence the stolen products and reap major profits,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Their conspiracy did not stop at our state borders, and neither did our investigation, thanks to our partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We tracked these alleged thieves across three states and hundreds of miles of highway to ensure that they were held accountable for the full scope of their crimes.”
“Organized criminal syndicates are drawn to cargo theft because of the huge illicit profits that can be generated,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Working with the New Jersey State Police and our federal partners, we are aggressively investigating and prosecuting this underworld activity, which disrupts commerce, inflicts big financial losses, and frequently finances other crimes.”
“Truckloads of cargo have always been a lucrative target for organized criminal groups. Our Interstate Theft Unit, along with our partners in Operation Midnight Run, are glad to have taken this group off the road and recovered large quantities of stolen goods,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.
“This case is an excellent example of how teamwork among state, local and federal agencies can disrupt these types of large-scale criminal activities and ensure that those involved are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly of ICE Homeland Security Investigations Newark.
The following 12 defendants were indicted: (Carlos Toriac-Almira is charged with first-degree conspiracy and third-degree receiving stolen property, but he is not named with the other 11 defendants in the first-degree money laundering count or the other counts specified on the previous page.)
Manus owned the warehouse on Midland Avenue in Saddle Brook where the Corning catalytic converters – stolen on June 20, 2012 and worth more than $120,000 – were recovered. Manus allegedly fenced goods stolen by the ring, buying them himself or finding a buyer. At that warehouse, investigators also recovered pallets of beer – including a large amount of Guinness stout – worth more than $23,000, which allegedly were stolen by the theft ring in Easton, Pa. on June 22, 2012. The tractor-trailer stolen with the beer was recovered in Passaic, N.J., and the tractor-trailer stolen with the catalytic converters was recovered in Paterson, N.J.
Ring members allegedly rented space at a furniture store on Route 22 in Hillside, N.J., which they also used as a location for their fencing activities. In addition to the GNC fish oil supplements, which were stolen in Paterson on May 28, 2013, investigators also recovered the following cargo at that location which allegedly was stolen by the ring: over $77,000 worth of Bell bicycle parts stolen in Paterson, N.J. on May 28, 2013; about $65,000 worth of bedding, which was part of a trailer-load of $88,000 in bedding stolen from South Plainfield, N.J., on June 14, 2013; and over $9,000 worth of Little Hug juices stolen in Passaic, N.J., on July 1, 2013. The tractor-trailers stolen with the fish oil and bedding were recovered in Newark, N.J., and the tractor-trailer stolen with the juices was recovered in Kearny, N.J. The tractor stolen with the bike parts was recovered in Jersey City, and the trailer in Newark.
Osmay Perez-Herrera, who uses the name “Omar,” is co-owner of the Mi Pais Supermarket on St. Nicholas Avenue in New York, N.Y. Investigators conducted two sting operations in which goods that were purportedly stolen allegedly were sold to Perez-Herrera for resale at various locations, including at the store. The “stolen” goods consisted of $80,000 worth of perfume and 330 counterfeit North Face jackets. Martinez participated in the sale of the jackets to Perez-Herrera and collected part of the proceeds. Martinez and Perez-Herrera are charged with third-degree counterfeiting in connection with the jackets.
The defendants, acting as theft crews in various combinations, also allegedly stole the following:
a tractor-trailer containing approximately $201,000 worth of clothing, which was stolen in Elizabeth, N.J., on March 12, 2015 and transported to a lot in Brooklyn, N.Y.
a tractor-trailer containing more than $143,000 worth of Nivea skin lotion, which was stolen in Easton, Pa., on Sept. 25, 2013 and transported to a lot in the Bronx, N.Y.
a tractor-trailer containing more than $151,000 worth of Goodyear tires stolen on April 7, 2015 from Grantville, Pa., which Dominguez and Marin were transporting through New Jersey when they were stopped by investigators in Readington, N.J., and arrested.
Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad, Senior Counsel for the Specialized Crime Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Danielle Scarduzio presented the case to the state grand jury and were assigned to the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Jacqueline Smith, Deputy Bureau Chief, and Deputy Attorney General Jill Mayer, Bureau Chief. Acting Attorney General Hoffman commended the New Jersey State Police Interstate Theft North Unit and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Border Enforcement Security Task Force for their work on the case. The lead detectives for the State Police Interstate Theft North Unit were Lt. Ron Micucci. Detective Sgt. 1st Class Jafca Mandziuk, Detective Sgt. Christopher Muscianesi, Detective Sgt. Felix Bermudez, Detective Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Hsu and Detective Cory Rodriguez.
First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. The first-degree money laundering charge carries an enhanced fine of up to $500,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000 fine, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up yesterday to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Bergen County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court for arraignment at a later date.