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An international stolen car ring that boosted luxury Porches, Land Rovers and Aston Martins that operated in New York and New Jersey and shipped the vehicles to West Africa has been dismantled, authorities say.
Approximately 160 cars valued at more than $8 million were recovered in “Operation Jacked,” a 10-month investigation leading to the arrest of seven alleged ringleaders charged with leading an auto theft trafficking network and related crimes. Most of the cars were at Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal and the Howland Hook Marine Terminal in Staten Island, N.Y., where the ring did most of its shipping for six-figure profits, acting Attorney General John Hoffman told reporters at a press conference Thursday.
“We will not allow this threat to go unanswered, undealt with and we will not allow it go without a fight,” Hoffman said. “Our best fight.”
Of the recovered vehicles, authorities said 27 were believed to have been taken during carjackings. Most of the suspects targeted victims by bumping into them from behind while on highways, leading to minor car accidents that led to carjackings on the side of the roadway. Thefts were also reported at airports, car washes and at valet services, Hoffman said.
The seven ringleaders were identified as Leon Nii-Moi, 35, of Roselle, N.J.; Kyle Champagne, 27, Irvington, N.J.; Saladine Grant, 39, Irvington, N.J.; James Hemphill 41, Belleville, N.J.; Omar Smith, 39, Newark, N.J.; Demarco Sparks, 40, Newark, N.J.; and Deandre Stevenson, 41, Newark, N.J. In all, 29 men were charged.
"Bayonne played a part in the investigation and arrest of some very dangerous people," said Bayonne Police Chief Ralph Scianni. "I have to give credit to our Bayonne police detectives for taking part in the operation."
The 10-month long operation was a "very labor intensive operation," Scianni said, adding that the most crucial aspect of the investigation was shared intelligence among the state’s Department of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police, Port Authority police and U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement.