Home invasions were bias crimes, according to Middlesex County grand jury

A Middlesex County grand jury handed up five indictments today, charging six individuals with having various roles in five home invasions that targeted families of Asian-Indian descent in Old Bridge, Edison and South Plainfield.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey said charges were upgraded against four residents of Houston, Texas who were arrested in December as suspects in the home invasions in committed between October 20, 2014 and November 29, 2014 because those alleged crimes targeted members of the Asian-Indian community. Two additional suspects were identified in today’s indictment.

00 12152014 Octavius Scott

Octavius Scott

Chaka Castro, 39, Juan Olaya, 34, Octavius Scott, 22, and Johnisha Williams, 19, were apprehended in Texas and returned to New Jersey, where $1.25 million bail has been set for each.

The investigation was conducted with the assistance from the the Edison, South Plainfield and Old Bridge police departments, along with the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the New Jersey State Police, and law enforcement authorities in Georgia, Michigan, New York and Texas.

The indictments, handed up in New Brunswick, charge all six defendants with conspiracy to commit bias intimidation, robbery and burglary for selecting the five families whose homes were ransacked at gunpoint.

“After the initial arrests were made in the case, our continuing investigation brought to light additional facts that enabled us to present evidence of bias crimes to the grand jury,” Carey said, noting such charges had not been filed previously.

“Investigators from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and a number of other law enforcement agencies worked carefully and diligently to secure this additional evidence, and have my sincere thanks and appreciation,” Carey said.

A total of 103 counts are included in the five indictments and, in addition to conspiracy, charge the defendants with counts of bias intimidation, burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, terroristic threats, criminal mischief, theft by unlawful taking, and hindering their own apprehension.

Chaka Castro

Chaka Castro

Not all of the defendants are charged with all the counts in the indictments, but are accused of various charges in the indictments, depending on their roles in some, or all of the home invasions.

The defendants were identified by the grand jury as Chaka Castro, also known as Catina Dennings, 39, Juan Olaya, 34, Octavius Scott, 22, Johnisha Williams, 19, and Justin Johnson, 25, all of Houston, and Jakeyra Augustus, 21, of North Texas City.

Castro, Olaya, Scott, and Williams were arrested in December by Texas police. Bail has been set for each of the defendants at $1.25 million.

Carey said members of the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the New Jersey State Police, the Old Bridge, South Plainfield and Edison police departments, and law enforcement authorities in Georgia, Michigan, New York and Texas participated in the investigation.

The defendants were charged during the investigation in which Agent John Selesky and Detective John Marotta, both of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, determined that Castro targeted specific homes in the three Middlesex County communities and then directed her co-defendants to commit the crimes.

00 12152014 Juan Olaya

Juan Olaya

Scott and Olaya entered each of the homes at gunpoint, restrained the families, and fled with stolen items in each of the five home invasions. They also threatened homeowners and smashed cell phones to prevent victims from calling police. Johnson and Augustus assisted in some of the home invasions.

In all but the home invasion in Old Bridge on November 29, 2014, Williams waited outside the homes and drove their accomplices from the crime scenes.

In addition to the November 29, 2014, home invasion, the defendants were charged with committing home invasions in Old Bridge on October 20, 2014, and October 26, 2014, in South Plainfield on October 28, 2014, and in Edison on October 30, 2014.

Castro was previously charged with five counts of conspiracy to commit robbery, a second degree offense, with a count stemming from each of the home invasions.

Carey noted that numerous law enforcement agencies and police officers participated in the lengthy investigation to identify suspects in the five home invasions.

In addition, Olaya, Scott, and Williams have been previously charged with a series of counts arising from each of the home invasions, including first-degree robbery and first-degree kidnapping, second-degree conspiracy, second-degree burglary, second-degree aggravated assault, and terroristic threats, theft, criminal mischief, and hindering their apprehension, all third degree offenses.

00 12152014 Johnisha Williams

Johnisha Williams

The co-defendants are also charged with fourth degree counts of pointing firearms at victims in each of the robberies.

The first-degree kidnapping carries penalties of up to 30 years in prison upon conviction and the first-degree robbery counts each carry 20-year terms. The other second degree counts allow for 10-year prison terms.

The third degree charges carry five-year terms and the fourth degree charges have a penalty of 18 months in custody.

In addition to the November 29, 2014, home invasion, the defendants were charged with committing home invasions in Old Bridge on October 20, 2014, and October 26, 2014, in South Plainfield on October 28, 2014, and in Edison on October 30, 2014.

Carey advised residents to be vigilant, watch neighbors’ homes and call police regarding any suspicious activity. He also advised residents to make certain their homes are secure.

The investigation is active and is continuing. Anyone with information is urged to call their local police, or the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3439.


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