UNION COUNTY — Authorities arrested 10 people, many of them gang members, yesterday and charged them with being part of a sophisticated criminal network that stole high-end vehicles.
The arrests followed a 15-month investigation that spanned three counties, said Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow. In addition to the arrests on Tuesday, police recovered three high-end luxury vehicles worth more than $330,000, several guns and more than $71,000 in cash.
In July 2009 the New Jersey State Police Auto Unit, the F.B.I. Newark Field Office and the North Bergen Police Department entered into a cooperative criminal investigation into the theft of seven luxury Mercedes Benz vehicles from a storage facility. The value of the vehicles was estimated at $775,000. Five of the vehicles were later recovered and through diligent investigative work a number of suspects were identified.
In May 2010 authorities investigated additional automobile thefts including a Mercedes Benz stolen from a Hudson County dealership and six Cadillac Escalades, worth $310,500, from a storage facility.
According to authorities, the investigation revealed that three men, Maurice Loyal, a confirmed member of the Bloods Street Gang, Maurice Murray and Rahjan Simmons, were behind the criminal operation. The men are also owners or affiliated with the following businesses located on Clinton Avenue in Newark: Clinton Jeanz, J&R Smoke Shop, Flash Blazing Ink Tattoo Shop and Munazzahs Phone Communication, according to the investigation.
“It has become clear that gang members have moved beyond street crimes like dealing drugs and into more sophisticated criminal enterprises,” said Romankow.
While authorities looked into the auto thefts, Rahjan Simmons was shot and killed on July 14, 2010 in front of Clinton Jeanz.
On Tuesday, ten suspects, including Maurice Loyal, 34, were arrested. Loyal, of Union Township, is charged with second degree racketeering, second degree receiving stolen property, second degree fencing-dealing in stolen property, third degree forgery and second degree conspiracy.
“Even though car theft is considered a non- violent crime, the monies generated often make it back to the coffers of violent street gangs,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We believe the streets of New Jersey are safer as a result of these arrests.”
Others arrested and charged are: Jasmin Golson, Jorge Rosario, Maurice Murray, Alvin Harper, Jimi Harrison, Edwin Martinez, Carlos Perez, Carlos Arnau, Mohamed Selim and Hector Martinez.
A last suspect, Eliot Martinez, 39, of Union City remains at large, according to authorities.
All are charged with second degree receiving stolen property.
Detective Aaron Auclair of the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Unit served as the lead case detective. Lt. James C. Russo of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Prosecution’s Unit facilitated the coordination between departments.
The case will be prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor James O. Tansey of the Prosecutor’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit.
“With the cooperation of the many law enforcement entities in this case, we collectively have managed to disrupt and dismantle a major criminal enterprise operating in the New Jersey area that has ties all over the country,” said Michael B. Ward, Special Agent In Charge of the FBI’s Newark Division. “Though the network of these criminals may have been sophisticated, it was no match for the collaborative reach of law enforcement. I thank our partners in this endeavor and look forward to future success together.”
This remains an active investigation, authorities said.
Officials cautioned that these criminal charges are merely accusations; the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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