TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that two men pleaded guilty today to first-degree charges for their roles in a major international carjacking and stolen car trafficking ring that stole high-end cars in New Jersey and New York and shipped them to West Africa.
Each of these two defendants pleaded guilty today to first-degree charges of conspiracy and carjacking before Superior Court Judge Stuart Peim in Union County:
- Kurtis Bossie, 24, of Newark, will face a recommended sentence of 18 years in state prison, including 8 ½ years of parole ineligibility.
- Jim J. Bryant Jr., 24, of Newark, will face a recommended sentence of 10 years in state prison, including more than five years of parole ineligibility.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony Torntore took the guilty pleas today for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. Bossie and Bryant are scheduled to be sentenced on April 15.
The defendants were 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 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 other defendants 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 the fact that we have dismantled two major carjacking rings: this one and a similar criminal enterprise we took down last fall in Operation 17 Corridor.”
“These defendants rightfully face lengthy prison terms,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’re making sure these criminals will not be joining together again to endanger our communities.”
“These defendants will have many years in prison to think about how their actions have hurt and traumatized victims,” 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.”
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.
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 in Operation Jacked, under the leadership of the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice:
- Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police Department
- ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Newark (Border Enforcement Security Task Force)
- Union County Prosecutor’s Office
- Essex County Prosecutor’s Office
- Massachusetts State Police
- Delaware State Police
- Connecticut State Police
- Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
- Manalapan Police Department
- Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office
- U.S. Customs & Border Protection
- Bayonne Police Department
- Hudson County Sheriff’s Office
- U.S. Marshals Service
Valuable assistance also was provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.