Yves Augustin, 26, of Rahway, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, armed robbery and two counts of carjacking, all first-degree charges, before Superior Court Judge Stuart Peim in Union County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to 20 years in state prison on the conspiracy charge and concurrent sentences of 15 years in prison, with 12 years and nine months of parole ineligibility, on each of the charges of carjacking and armed robbery. Augustin is scheduled to be sentenced on June 3.
In pleading guilty, Augustin admitted that he was a member of the stolen car trafficking ring and that he committed two carjackings for which he had been charged. On July 3, 2013, he rammed a Mercedes SUV from behind on McCarter Highway in Newark. When the male victim pulled into a gas station to check for damage, Augustin and an accomplice, who was armed, took the victim’s key fob at gunpoint. On July 9, 2013, Augustin bumped a woman’s Mercedes SUV in Newark and then an accomplice forcibly took her key fob from her hands when she stopped to check her vehicle. Police interrupted that carjacking, and Augustin fled the scene.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony Torntore took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. Augustin was charged in Operation Jacked,” an investigation led by the Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police, assisted by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and 12 other law enforcement agencies. Investigators recovered 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 of first-degree racketeering, including three alleged ringleaders, two alleged shippers for the ring, and 21 associates who fenced, carjacked and stole vehicles, or acted as wheel men who moved and hid the luxury cars. Ten defendants previously pleaded guilty in Operation Jacked and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 18 years, including four who pleaded guilty pre-indictment.
“The brutal carjackings committed by Augustin reveal why this stolen car trafficking ring was so dangerous,” said Acting Attorney General Lougy. “These criminals would stop at nothing to get the high-end cars they prized, and the fact that they needed vehicle key fobs often led to volatile and violent confrontations with owners. We’re making our communities safer by putting these carjackers in prison for lengthy terms.”
“Carjackings in Newark and the surrounding region are down by more than half over the past three years, thanks in substantial part to the concerted efforts of the Attorney General’s Office, the New Jersey State Police, HSI, the Port Authority and the Essex County Carjacking Task Force,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Through Operation Jacked in 2014 and Operation 17 Corridor in 2015, we took numerous carjackers and car thieves off the street and shut down the routes by which stolen luxury cars were reaching lucrative overseas markets.”
“A rolling laundry bin or food cart will be the only wheels Augustin will be able to jack in prison,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We look forward to the prosecution of the many additional defendants charged in Operation Jacked.”
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. 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. Other vehicles were stolen in “soft steals” 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. Thefts occurred at carwashes and at airports, where drivers would leave cars running at terminals to unload luggage. In other cases, ring members obtained cars through fraud, using bad checks to buy cars from new and used car dealerships. In West Africa, the luxury vehicles trafficked by the ring commanded prices in excess of new market value in the U.S.
Shippers would load the cars into shipping containers, which were taken to ports for transport by ship to West Africa. Of the 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.
The lead prosecutors for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau are Deputy Attorney General Anthony Torntore and Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad, Senior Counsel in the Specialized Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jill Mayer, Deputy Division Director Christopher Romanyshyn and Division Director Elie Honig. Deputy Attorney General Susan Wolansky is handling the forfeiture action in this case. The investigation was conducted for the New Jersey State Police by members of the Auto Unit and other members of the Special Investigations Section, including Detective Sgt. Aaron Auclair, Detective Sgt. Jeovanny Rodriguez, Detective Sgt. 1st Class Enrique Bryan, Lt. Ron Micucci, Detective Cory Rodriguez and Trooper Nicholas Rubino.
The following agencies assisted the State Police and Division of Criminal Justice in Operation Jacked:
Valuable assistance also was provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.