NJ attorney general indicts 12 in $1.5 million cargo theft scheme

By Land Line staff | 6/5/2015

A group of 12 men have been indicted on state charges in New Jersey of conspiring to steal $1.5 million in a series of cargo thefts involving tractor-trailers.

The 11-count state grand jury indictment was announced via press release Friday, June 5, by New Jersey acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. The defendants stand accused of stealing clothing, beauty products, auto parts and beer, all of which were also allegedly fenced.

The release states the theft ring operated in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The indictment, which was returned Thursday, 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.

“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,” Hoffman said in the release. “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.”

All 12 defendants were charged with first-degree conspiracy. Eleven of the defendants also face charges of 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 release stated.

According to the attorney general, 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 release states that 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 Moroccan oil hair and body products that were stolen in Allentown, Pa., and transported through New Jersey to a lot in the Bronx, N.Y. GNC fish oil capsules worth $152,000 were stolen in Paterson, N.J. and recovered at a furniture store in Hillside, N.J.

The indicted defendants are:

  • Yoanny Justiz, 32, of North Bergen, N.J.,
  • Luis Requena, 24, who was deported after his arrest in 2013,
  • Marvin Quezada, 40, of Union City, N.J.,
  • Pedro Arias, 68, of Elizabeth, N.J.,
  • Horacio Llerena-Martinez, 55, of North Bergen, N.J.,
  • Osmay Perez-Herrera, 51, of New York, N.Y.,
  • Wilson Ferrer-Reyes, 51, of Union City, N.J.,
  • Hector Rivas, 38, of Union City, N.J.,
  • Kenneth Manus, 61, of Norwood, N.J.,
  • Angel Dominguez, 44, of Union City, N.J.,
  • Carlos Toriac-Almira, 36, of Union City, N.J., and
  • Luis Marin, 46, of Union City, N.J.

Toriac-Almira is charged with first-degree conspiracy and third-degree receiving stolen property, but is not named with the other 11 defendants in the first-degree money laundering count.

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, which allegedly was stolen by the ring, at that location:

  • More than $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 Perrez-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.
  • A tractor-trailer containing $100,000 worth of mozzarella cheese stolen on Sept. 27, 2013, from a warehouse in Sayreville, N.J.

Arias was arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike after he and other defendants allegedly stole the cheese from the warehouse. It is alleged that he initially refused to stop the truck for police and subsequently tried to flee on foot. Quezada, Requena and Justiz were riding in a car immediately in front of Arias and also were arrested.

The first-degree conspiracy 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.

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