TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a Newark, N.J., man was sentenced to prison today for his role in a ring that stole luxury cars in northern and central New Jersey and loaded them onto cargo containers for shipping or fenced them in other states. Four men were indicted in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, Woodbridge Police Department and other members of the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force.
Kelvin Vega, 25, of Newark, was sentenced today to six years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Catherine I. Enright in Morris County. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 4 to second-degree receiving stolen property. Two other ring members who pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property late last year were sentenced to prison on Jan. 26. Carlos Sanchez Jr., 19, of Newark, was sentenced to four years in prison, and Vega’s brother, Jonathan Vega, 24, of Newark, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The fourth defendant, Bilal Cureton, 28, of Newark, faces pending charges, including second-degree charges of conspiracy, theft, receiving stolen property, fencing, and financial facilitation of criminal activity.
Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad, Senior Counsel of the Specialized Crimes Bureau, is prosecuting the defendants and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice.
The ring members stole numerous high-end vehicles, including various models of Mercedes, BMW and Bentley. The investigation revealed they used certain spots to “cool off” vehicles, parking them at a hotel in Elizabeth, for example, until they were sure they were not equipped with tracking devices that would lead law enforcement to them. After a vehicle was sufficiently “cooled,” it was moved to a loading location, usually in Irvington, to be shipped, or was fenced domestically. Several of the vehicles stolen by the ring members were recovered from shipping containers prior to being placed on cargo vessels. The ring members were directly linked to thefts of at least 14 vehicles with a combined estimated value of more than $800,000. Vehicles were stolen in New Jersey from Morristown, Long Hill, Jamesburg, Holmdel, Livingston, Closter, Princeton and Mahwah. One stolen Mercedes S550 was traced to Louisiana, where Kelvin Vega was found in possession of that car and a second stolen Mercedes S550. Other stolen cars were recovered in Maryland and Ohio.
“These defendants prowled residential neighborhoods and stole cars from their owners’ driveways, creating a high potential for dangerous confrontations,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By dismantling this high-end car fencing ring and putting these thieves in prison, we’ve made our communities safer and protected valuable property.”
“We will continue to collaborate in these task force investigations to arrest car thieves and violent carjackers,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our efforts in recent years have produced dramatic results in reducing this type of crime.”
“Too often the criminals associated with auto-theft trafficking rings will employ any method necessary to steal desired cars, using threats and violence, which can have tragic consequences,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The troopers of the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task force and our partners are undoubtedly making our communities safer for residents and visitor alike.”
Deputy Attorney General Conrad is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Jacqueline Smith. Detective Sgt. Jarek Pyrzanowski of the Division of Criminal Justice and Detective Santiago Tapia of the Woodbridge Police Department, who are members of the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force, were the lead detectives for the investigation. They were assisted by Essex County Sheriff’s Investigator Kevin Macken and numerous other members of the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force. Detective Sgt. Patrick Kendig, Detective Joseph Saiia and Detective Patrick Guilfoy of the Division of Criminal Justice Surveillance Unit also provided valuable assistance. Attorney General Grewal commended all of the Task Force members who conducted the investigation.
New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force
- New Jersey State Police
- New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice
- Newark Police Department
- Woodbridge Police Department
- Bloomfield Police Department
- Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor
For Kelvin Vega:
Joseph Corazza, Esq., Kraemer and Corazza, Attorneys At Law, Sparta, N.J.